So we are officially into the holidaze of what is supposed to be the holiest of days.
But as we wait to celebrate the birth of Christ it can be hard to see the holy tarnished by too much tinsel, wrapped in a multitude of mammon-centered activity.
Or engulfed in family enmity.
Sometimes the worst of the worst gets served up around the family table fractured, the nest of our nearest and dearest where we are supposed to find welcome and a safe haven for our hearts.
But if you grew up with any kind of dysfunction — such as alcoholism, abuse, divorce or church-going which never rang true with the Gospel of Love — family gatherings during the Christmas season can be grueling.
And the enemy of God rouses old rivalries and unhealed wounds pit kith against kin, grating on your soul until you are raw with rejection.
Dreading the most wonderful time of the year when being together seems so awful.
Holidays, with their Hallmark expectations, can magnify the pain of loss when lovelessness prevails. While you may spiritually discern the dynamics of unseen evil battling good, and you understand that you share in His uncomparable suffering, words harshly spoken or icy glances conveying we don’t want you here tears your human heart in two, tears falling.
And it hurts like hell.
Because it emanates from hell. Division and discord. Misunderstandings and gossip. Taking sides or listening to lies. Devil scoring a hit and all you want is to go online this Cyber Monday and find the cheapest tickets to Bequia.
For You have been a defense for the helpless,
A defense for the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat;
For the breath of the ruthless
Is like a rain storm against a wall.
You are always safe in Him and His love that never ends and covers a multitude of sins.
And grace that gives you strength to keep hoping, forgiving always.
And mercy trumping justice because broken people cannot bring out the best in each other.
If you find yourself in the crazy crush of the season or stuck in the web of family dysfunction remember these 10 tips:
1. Keep it simple and keep it real by keeping Christmas in your heart every day of the year not just on December 25. Imagine if God only loved you, held you, helped or provided for you one day a year!)
2. Avoid commemorating the Greatest Birth with a mammon-driven, exhaustive search for the perfect gifts taking on debt.
3. Let His presence be your dearest gift. Let Jesus light your heart and home — instead of a million twinkling bulbs — like the star that lit the way that cold, dark night so long ago, leading others to Him.
4. Be still. Quiet your mind and heart and humbly give Him gifts. It’s His birthday. He desires time alone with you, obedience to His word, and your choosing to love Him and others. Practicing these good things helps you become more like Him.
5. Do all in love. Not yours that may be hurting from some unkind remark, but His that knew hurting unto death.
6. Say No to — another holiday invite, that family dinner that yields more indigestion than an investment in the bond of love, the internal perfectionist that demands you stay up till two baking or wrapping when all your husband wants is a warm and tender snuggle.
7. Decline with grace and keep your regrets respectful and on point. Consider writing out your words so you won’t get sucked into the old emotional cycle when a family member throws the guilt. You are called to love them, but are not asked to submit to abuse.
8. Give gifts priceless such as your time and attention. Or perhaps something you make.
9. Gather your dear ones and head out into Creation if you can. Walk through the woods and marvel about what Mary felt as she gave birth in a cave. Or stroll along the shore all bundled and recount God’s boundlessness and Him calling you to come.
10. Celebrate simply this year and get more in return — a holy hush filling your heart with awe less the fuss and stress and no returns needed.
Giving gifts of kindness, goodness, gentleness, and patience minus the pain never goes out of style. Life affirming, they build what we all truly want: healthy, loving relationships.
So let the Love of Christ wrap you and those you love this Christmas.
With ribbons red like blood tenderly tethering one heart to the other…