I look around my small living room where we have celebrated four previous Christmases, and I sigh pondering how it’s the same – same shabby tree, same family ornaments, same old decorations . . . yet so much has changed.
This is the year where the Christmas season has been a gift to me rather than a burden. I have done my best to slow things down and take out more stuff, replacing that with more memories. These memories are made of traditions, a precious labor of love for my family that I have struggled to build as a single parent. These traditions are part of the glue that makes me and my tribe who we are – it’s a reflection of what we hold near and dear. It has helped my children remember over the years of grief and recovery from divorce that a family is a family, no matter how small, different, dysfunctional, weird or what-have-you.
After my divorce several years ago, the holidays that once brought me so much joy had turned sour; every Christmas song felt like a barb in my heart. I smiled through many gatherings then soaked my pillow with tears later on. The combination of loneliness, exhaustion from raising three kids alone and grief crashed in on me. For the first couple of years as a newly single mom, I just wanted to hibernate until the season passed. But like all amazing moms and dads I know, we push through the pain to do what’s best for our families even when it’s akin to walking on glass.
The reality is that if you are anything like me, the Christmas (Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Easter . . .) traditions that you had probably included someone else who simply isn’t present for a multitude of reasons. So what do you do with all the shards of what used to be your Christmas? You hand it to the Father, and together you build something new. Because God is not in the business of recreating old memories and taking you backward. No matter how good things were or how hard they are now – He is moving forward and is able to do more than you can imagine. Just read some more of this blog, and you will see that I am proof of that.
I began to celebrate Advent many years ago with my kids. I have always loved biblical history and wanted to make Jesus the central part of our Christmas, and as my faith has grown along with my children it has become equally precious to all four of us. The kids take turns lighting the advent candles on Sunday nights and hanging the ornaments on the Jesse tree. It just gets better every year as they grow in their abilities to understand the Biblical stories of Jesus’ ancestry.
Yes, we do the (dreaded) Elf on the Shelf. Really, Santa is not a big deal in our home. I love St. Nick, but as a single mom who works her hind-end off to provide for these people, I wanted the credit for the gifts I bought. They don’t think the elf spies on them, and I don’t think the girls ever really bought into him coming to life at night, but it’s a game and good fun. Now that my son is a pre-teen he has taken over Elf duty. Let’s just say that the elf doesn’t “rest” as much as he did in years past!
A couple other traditions we enjoy are baking gifts for teachers, Christmas Eve service with our extended family and the Joy stocking – where each family member receives a small gift from mom signifying how they brought joy to the family this year.
But the best thing you can do this Christmas? Do more than remember the “reason for the season.” Spend time at Jesus’ feet just being quiet. The busyness does nothing but mask pain, rob you of joy and wear you out. Stuff is just stuff, and let’s be real – we don’t need more stuff. We need Christ and His peace. And hey, you’re not alone. Find a church, call a friend, join a support group, find somewhere to serve, go run a 5K . . . resist the urge to isolate.
So Merry Christmas friends. 2015 has been a pivotal year of much-needed change and breakthrough with much, much more around the corner! I pray your Christmases are blessed and that you can celebrate the Greatest Gift – Jesus. Below I am including some awesome links for Advent, Devotionals and Sources for dealing with hurt during the holidays.
Looking for a church to attend Christmas Eve service? Come with me or visit any of our many locations Life.Church
Also, I encourage you to get into the word by downloading Life.Church’s free Bible App (available in the app store and Google play) – every version of the Bible is available you as well as hundreds of Bible studies and devotionals. Did I mention free?