The Ideal Christmasby Mark Gungor
Yes, it’s that time of the year again…the most wonderful, happy, and magical season of Christmas! At least that’s what the retailers, songs and TV specials all proclaim starting mid-November. Yet for many people, this whole holiday season starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Years is anything but wonderful or happy.
Now, there may be a variety of reasons for this. For some people, it is the first year since a loved one has passed away, which makes for sadness. Others experience the whole season being separated by many miles from their family and friends either because of job situations, military commitments or just because they can’t make it home for any given reason.
Some of the things that cause people to be unhappy at Christmas time cannot be helped and they are quite reasonable sources for sad or melancholy feelings. But many people are upset and stressed out during this season by their own doing. And by far, the largest culprit in this is unrealistic expectations of what they think Christmas is supposed to be like.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not a scrooge. I love Christmas and the whole season, but we must remember to keep it in check. People get so caught up in the hustle and bustle, the buying and spending, and the dreams and illusions of what the media tells us we must do and have for it to be the “perfect holiday”, that we lose the real joy that can be a part of celebrating the season.
First, dial down your emotional expectations. Realistically, keep in mind that the same kids who drive you crazy all the other months of the year will not become the angelic cherubs of fantasy just because it’s Christmas time. Your family—including your in-laws—that make you want to pull your hair out January through November won’t suddenly become the cast of “The Walton’s Family Christmas”. (Actually, they will probably be more like the Griswold family from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!)
There is no magic Christmas snow with sparkling and glittery pixie dust mixed in that will turn your gatherings into something off a Norman Rockwell poster or a Currier and Ives greeting card. But fear not, just because the season is fraught with pitfalls, perils and problems, there is still greatness to be found and fun to be had.
Enjoy the insanity, laugh at the lunacy and keep a sense of humor about whole thing.
Like when your hot tub burns down on Christmas Day as ours did last year! For some people it would have ruined their whole day to have fire trucks and flames decorating their lawn…but we found it quite hilarious.
Second, scale back the spending spree. That alone will help reduce the stress for a lot of people. Don’t be blowing money like drunken monkeys thinking you have to buy everything for your kids or your family. Especially if you don’t have the finances to do it and you’re running up credit cards that you will be enslaved to for the next twelve months. That’s not exactly what people mean when they say you should celebrate the Christmas spirit year round! The financial stress shouldn’t haunt you for the entire year until you finally get it paid off—only to start the madness again next December.
Keep it in perspective; keep in mind the reason we are celebrating and what this season is all about. It’s not about the perfect tree, which kid has the biggest pile of gifts, or a family gathering so blissful that the “Hallelujah Chorus” is playing in the background.
Take a deep breath, check your expectations, and remember the very first Christmas. I know we romanticize and idealize the whole nativity scene, but in reality, it was not the most ideal of circumstances. This young woman had to try to sell the whole story for her pregnancy to her family and fiancé—who even wanted to leave her at first. I’m sure for months Mary faced the deluge of questions from the people around her as they didn’t quite buy the “an angel told me” story. Was there gossip? Shame? Ridicule? Then when the birth of the baby was eminent, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary traveled for days on a donkey just because some goofy government edict required it. On top of that, they couldn’t find any place to stay but a stable, and she ended up delivering the baby Jesus in a barn, filled with animal and stink and caca. (Most of us come unglued if we get lost on a detour on the way to Grandma’s house on Christmas Day! How could we have ever survived this level of inconvenience?)
Again, not the most glorious and ideal situation…yet the glory and love of God still abounded. God himself could not possibly have been any more real and present than he was in the midst of these unpleasant surroundings and circumstance.
So too, can your Christmas be filled with the love and joy of Jesus in the midst of the stink and caca. Remember, it’s not the ideal circumstance that makes for the ideal Christmas. Laugh and keep a sense of humor. Celebrate and enjoy your blessings. Be nice and love those around you. Even if your crazy cousin comes, the tree won’t light up, you don’t get all the presents you dreamed of, your kids argue and get on your very last nerve, your mother-in-law tells you for the hundredth time how to make a ham so it’s not so dry…or you ignite your hot tub!