There's no such thing as a perfect Christmas



With Thanksgiving over, it's already the Christmas season: a time of family, fellowship and feasting.  Right at this moment...

How do you feel?

For some people, this season is one of joy, family, laughter, gifting and receiving, memories made and memories recollected.  But for some, it is a season that reminds us of the sadness and loneliness felt inside our hearts.  It may be the loss of a loved one, a divorce in the family, or locational challenges that make celebrating together impractical.  The season of hope for some, is a time of hopelessness for others.  For many years, the holidays were an unwelcome reminder that my family life had fallen apart, and I was caught in the dark chasm.  While it seemed everyone else was planning their busy holiday season with family near and far, I was left behind wondering where to go.  I often calculated my holiday travel based on where I would feel the least alone and hurt from the past.

It's memories like these that cause me to wonder who else is lonely and hurting during the holidays.  Even David, who was said to be a man after God’s own heart - who composed most of Psalms - experienced many times of loneliness and hurt.  He used his gift of lyricism to strengthen himself in the Lord.

In Psalm 43, David cries:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”

While I am reminded again this year that everything isn't as picturesque as a Hallmark card and my family is divided again this holiday season, I take hope in focusing on the real meaning of Christmas:  Christ coming to earth andbeing with us.  In the book of Matthew, before Jesus is even born, He is given the name Emmanuel which means God with us.  How beautiful is that!

Every holiday season I would try to make my family have the perfect Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner.  To my surprise, it never happened.  And when it wasn't perfect, I would become extremely upset and disheartened.  What I realize in hindsight is that life is never, ever, ever...ever...perfect.  On the contrary, life is always changing, moving, altering, transforming; and WE are being perfected.  I once heard a pastor explain that in Scripture the word perfect is only used in a "continual process" way rather than a "static state of being" way; in other words perfect is actually the process of being perfected.  And weare being perfected.

The duplicitous idea of a perfect holiday season is actually anti-hopeful, because it paints impossible expectations as practical...if only my family wasn't crazy, or if only I wasn't alone, or if I could get everyone to agree, or if only we could just have a normal Christmas dinner, or this, or that... That perfect holiday doesn't exist, and not only do you feel the weight of broken expectations, but so does everyone who knew what your expectations were for the holidays.

Here's my holiday story this year:  I spent Thanksgiving in Houston with the best brother in the world.  He was invited by his church family to a Friendsgiving feast finished off by a friendly game of football.  It was beautiful: his church family is beautiful, God's reflection in their welcoming warmth is beautiful, and the laughter we shared was beautiful.  There were three generations of families present.  It was the kind of Thanksgiving I look forward to having with my own family one day.  And while I earnestly wait and hope for my own family to grow large, I find solace in knowing God directs my life steps if only I will yield to Him.

Life is not going to be “perfect”, but you can put your creative energy and hope toward the One who is.  You may fight with your family or you may not even have family, but there is always hope for the future; and in the present, you are not alone.  You are with the most loving person you will ever know, Jesus...Emmanuel...God with us.

My dear readers:  in Heaven, there will be no expectation too grand for the Lord.  Until then, perfection can only be defined as a continual state of being perfected.  The good news is that we can embrace this continuous perfection right now.  Ask the Lord to perfect your heart and thoughts about the holidays.  Maybe He will lead you to be content in your today, while hoping for the tomorrow you seek.  Maybe He will lead you to form a Christmas version of Friendsgiving to celebrate God’s gift of Christ with other lonely people.  And in these moments of family, friends and fellowship, let us be thankful for and meditate on the Lord's presence with us.

With hope and love,