Our Family would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas from our Home to yours!!!!
Whatever your life’s journey or wherever you find yourself this Christmas, remember God love’s you so much He came down as a baby. Jesus, lived, grew in wisdom and stature, died for your sins, and rose from the dead, so that you might have life and life more abundant, eternal life. He was tempted in every way as you are but without sin. (Hebrew 4:15) May He encourage your heart and help you remember what’s important even when things may not be as you expected or would like. You are blessed to be a blessing.
Our Christmas’ have changed since my husband and I’s first one together 37 years ago, but one thread has been a constant for us, to seek to emulate Christ to others around us. For example let me share three thoughts: Patience, Lowering our Expectations, and Memories with Extended Family. A free gift at the end.
This year as I am shopping, one thing I noticed is my need to offer, very harried people some degree of patience. How I respond to them is important especially during this time of year. Something as simple as “patience” speaks volumes.
How is your patience-quotient this year? Do people take notice of it? I can’t say working on patience is easy but what little I do offer goes a long way to encourage people. I thank God, however, that I don’t always show on the outside what I am truly feeling on the inside. But I still ask God to keep helping me. Ever been there?
But the more people take notice of my patience, the more it gives me inspiration to have more patience. Try it sometime and observe the reaction of people around you. You never know what their narrative is and it might just open up a window for further spiritual conversations. Remember patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
LOWERING ONE’S EXPECTATIONS
As we have moved from place to place, our Christmas’ have changed, as well, as our family and friends over the years. As we await each year for family and/or friends to join us, Jim and I have learned that some planning is good but the need to also lower our own expectations in the midst of them is important as well. Going with the flow once everyone arrives is best. We find ways to bless and serve. Family traditions are there but often are modified with the times, depending on the season and/or group we find ourselves with.
One of Google’s definitions of the word tradition is “the handing down of patterns of behavior, practices, and beliefs that are valued by a culture.” Thomas Kinkade says, “Traditions…like sacraments, are those actions that give expression to that for which words will always be inadequate. Traditions tell a story of what is important…and what over time, shape our souls, transform our hearts, and link our past with the present.” (Thomas Kinkade, 1999. Christ the Light of the World, p. 58.). They should therefore undergird one’s purpose and/or values. Hopefully pointing to the reason for the season, Jesus and not traditions for the sake of traditions. Therefore, lowering one’s expectations, holding one’s plans loosely, helps us remember why we are doing what we are doing in the first place when our ideas don’t always go according to what we envision.
Some of our kids are married now, we have taken away a few of our traditions and/or added a few different ones to allow Christmas to be special for the spouses as new members of our extended family now. We have become richer because of it. However, some traditions seem to still be some of our special favorites. What are some of yours and why?
If you are just starting out your family be intentional about your Christmas traditions and special moments no matter how hard it is, within reason, because in due season you will reap if you faint not. If you don’t aim at something you will hit nothing every time.
Not every year was a success and fortunately the kids don’t always remember the bad, stressful years where I didn’t do so well. However, our kids will often tell us the memories they want to make for any given Christmas and many of them include the traditions, Jim and I started. As we investigate the reasons certain ones are special to them, we are often surprised by their answers. I have to smile and thank God for redeeming those years.
Learning to flex in the moments of frustration and go with the flow goes a long way to achieving what you probably desire in the first place and forgiving yourself when you blow it. Now grandkids are on the scene and we are making our adjustments, creating new rhythms and traditional memories for years to come.
If you are not married, think about joining another family or your extended family and participating in with their traditions. Taking time to observing which ones you like and don’t like. If you have a special tradition you like, I bet if you ask the family you are with ahead of time, they would be glad to include something important to you.
As our family has grown, all makes for an interesting time. No matter how hard it is to pack, travel, get here and then adjust to one another, it is worth it. Christmas gives us the opportunity to continue to be a light for Christ to our children and grandchildren. It is a time as a family to slow life down, to remember past (hopefully good) memories, giggle together, be loved on, and make new memories. Sure makes this mom and dad overwhelmed with joy.
Edith Schaeffer notes, it is like a quilt it is messy on the back but beautiful on the front. The threads in the back are all intwined, ugly but strong . Continuity of repeated special moments strung together form a strong foundation for our kids, hopefully not only remind them they belong to something bigger than themselves and are loved but hopefully point to the fact Jesus loves them most. Plan for the holidays but hold your expectations loosely.
MEMORIES WITH EXTENDED FAMILY
Living in the Philippines for 13 years caused us to grow closer to our co-workers which is not always a given among overseas workers and their colleagues. One way we celebrated Christmas away from blood family was coming together with our teammates, who were like extended family. We included others but it mainly comprised of the expats in the beginning.
Each family took turns yearly hosting Christmas at their home. They chose the agenda, events and menu for food for the day. The host then would delegate, by asking each of the other families to bring something on the menu (keeping in mind everyone’s Christmas favorites) and participate in the activities planned for the day. We always exchanged gifts, the adults did the adults and the kids did the kids. It made for many good memories.
The one year I had it at our home, I organized a play where I made sure all the kids would have a part in it. It was written in such a way that no one would be left out. Kelli, our eldest played Joseph and Shawna played Mary in one of the scenes of the Nativity Story. The donkey that Shawna appeared to be riding to Bethlehem on, was made of cardboard. Each family got their parts for their kids and designed their own costumes to wear. We made sure the shy kids had silent parts and the older ones or more extroverted ones had bigger parts. It was so much fun.
Even Shane, our 2 years old at the time (27 now), our third of four kids, and one of the youngest in the group, got a part. We made him an angel out in the field, putting a T-shirt on him, with wings made out of poster board, cotton balls, and elastic for him to put his arms into. He was coaxed across the make shift stage by offering him a drink and some cookies. “Shane come” waving him across the stage, while the narrator read the script. “The angels appeared and praised God”. Shane made his move.
Latter when we looked at the pictures and video we saw that this angel had his wings on upside down and the bribing of the cookies where totally shown on the video for everyone to see. “Oops!” But he was so cute.
After the play was over, one of the adults gave a Gospel presentation “Why Celebrate Christmas“. Giving the Gospel while neighbors near-by listened.
The kids still remember that time with fond memories and the adults do too. I am sure if we watched it today they would laugh.
If you would like a free copy to use this Christmas Play with your “family” or “community” go to “Christmas Play for Kids” . If you do use it, please let me know how you used it and how it went. Thanks!
There is something about families (whether extended and/or spiritual families, and/or community) that God has designed for us to be part of. No matter where you are or whatever situation you find yourself in during this Christmas holiday, stop and thank God. You are making memories that last for a lifetime, for family and friends. You are spreading a blanket for Jesus’ love to land, take root and grow, so others may hear about HIM
May you have a blessed Christmas, hopefully a desire to plan, with as little stress as possible, full of patience, low expectations, and memories centered around the truth of Jesus.
“Lord, thank you God for sending Jesus to us. Happy Birthday Jesus”, and Merry Christmas to you!.
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS: How is this Christmas different for you than the years before? How will you try to emulate Christ to others this year? What traditions have you enjoyed over the years, especially if you are from different parts of the world? Which traditions will you try to integrate into this Christmas? Would love to hear some of your comments at the end of the section on “Merry Christmas 2017”
From One Pilgrim to another together on the journey,
”Consider how you may spur one another on towards love and good deeds….. encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
“ Intentionally journaling alongside of mission minded women in order to encourage them to see God in their story, moving them closer to Jesus, and to discover their place in God’s Kingdom so God will be worshipped among the nations”