Christmas and all of its surrounding events has been the go-to topic of conversation the last few weeks. Between the gift buying, the cookie baking and the holiday parties, it’s hard to think about much else. As we all know, with Christmas comes family. The meals. The events. The gatherings. Both sides of the family. The estranged aunts. The distant cousins. You name it – everyone has a story to tell when it comes to their family, distant or otherwise.
This holiday season my heart has been particularly sensitive to the negative murmurs, sighs and chuckles that often arise when discussing family Christmas festivities. You know what I mean, the stories of the crazy grandma, the awkward brother or sister, the snotty niece. Spending time with family around the holidays in particular is talked about liked it’s a burden – just another “thing to get through.” Just look at some of our favorite Christmas movies – Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause and the list goes on. They all portray the stressful, tension-filled household around the holidays that American culture embraces as the norm. While I do see the comedy in these movies (and admittedly watch them annually), the reality of is saddening. I understand everyone has different relationships and family situations, but in general, our culture deems it “cool” and appropriate to talk negatively about our family to others. It’s normal to not look forward to spending time with your family around the holidays. It’s weird to actually get along with your family and enjoy one another’s company. Just think about the million and one “mother-in-law” jokes.
To be frank, I don’t get it, can’t stand it and don’t put up with it. I get a pit in my stomach when I hear people talking negatively about their family and taking for granted the time that they have to spend with them. People chalk it up to me living far away from my family, and I suppose that’s part of it. Part of it is also the fact that I am blessed with a wonderful family (in-laws included – I couldn’t have asked for a better family to marry into if I tried, I love them just as if I’d known them forever and I never take this for granted), but I would trade places with any of my friends who have their family close by in a second. Of course there will be disagreements, irritating moments and awkward situations, but family is a blessing and honestly, I don’t have time to waste on family feuds.
We all know that loving one another is biblical.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
But I would also contend that loving our family should be a response to how much God loves us. There is no better time to think about this than Christmas. God loved us SO much that He sent His Son to be born of a virgin and live a life on earth only to be tortured, beaten, mocked, scorned and left to die on a cross to save us from our sins. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of His Son, a glorious day when the Messiah was born to redeem us all from the wicked ways of sin. There has never been more love expressed than that of God sending His Son. He taught us, no He demonstrated, what it means to love others.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3: 16-20
Our RESPONSE to God’s love for us should be love for our family. If we are truly loving God, we should love our families too, lumps included. Culture may encourage us to tell yet another “crazy mother-in-law” joke, but why? What does this do, other than tear down the family unit – the people in this world you should care most about?
To me, the BEST part about the holidays is spending time with family. We are far from perfect and any relationship will occasionally have bumps in the road, but I love my family and wouldn’t trade them for anything. Instead of dreading the family get-togethers this holiday season, take a moment to cherish the time. After all, you never know how many more Christmases you’ll have.
Today Mike and I are headed to Colorado for a week. There will be over 10 people staying in one house, including the newest member of the family, little E-man. It will be loud, chaotic at times and a shower with hot water is a matter of survival of the fittest.
…And I can’t wait. Merry Christmas!