I woke up as a young girl on Christmas morning, eyes sparkling with magic and chest bursting with anticipation. This was the day we had been counting down to all month. The Advent calendar had been opened, cookies baked, The Santa Clause watched. There had been game days, shopping trips, and gift wrapping tips all leading up to this: Christmas morning.
Well—almost Christmas morning. Two in the morning, to be more specific. The excitement had been too much. So I lay in bed, trying to remain as calm as possible—after all, I didn’t want to wake one of my brothers up and we weren’t allowed to go into Mom and Dad’s room until 7:00.
That’s when it would all begin: Dad reading the Christmas account from one of the Gospels, walking downstairs and having a blindfolded stocking reveal, Christmas scavenger hunts, breakfast, and much, much more.
Transition and Traditions
Every year as I got a little older the traditions looked a little different, but overall they remained the same. I watched things change as my older brothers and sister went off to college, then as they got married and moved out. Things changed as I graduated and moved into the basement. Then more change when my sister had a baby and couldn’t be around as much as she used to be. But there was always Christmas magic. We were still together.
Last December I looked at everything as if in slow motion. Christmastime somehow shifted into something unexpected. I treasured every moment and tried not to let it get shuffled away in scrambled thoughts about work, friendships, responsibilities, and debt. Things were shifting. But still, we were all together.
This year, my life is completely different. Christmas is completely different. Schedules are filling up among all the siblings who have somehow become full-grown adults. With a little niece and two new babies in the family, Christmas timing is based more around sleep schedules than anything else.
When Two Become One
But perhaps the biggest change of all: in September I married my absolute best friend. I honestly couldn’t be happier. Discovering each other’s quirks and habits is one of the most fun (and comical) experiences. And this has never been more prevalent than in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s struck me how different others’ traditions can be from my own. I’ve always found it intriguing and fun, but then it all came crashing down with one conversation.
Pulling into our driveway at the end of the night, my husband uttered something I hadn’t considered: “You know, since we’ll be with your family for all of Thanksgiving, we will probably be with mine for Christmas.”
Heart drop. Okay, okay. I can split up the day. I’m a rational person and that makes absolute sense. Our families live only 20 minutes apart so it shouldn’t be too hard to divide the day.
“And if they decide to go to Alabama this year, we’ll travel there with them.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love my in-laws. I love spending time with them and I know it’s important to spend time with both of our families, especially around the holidays. I had not prepared, though, for what it would look like to spend Christmas without my whole family. Is Christmas even Christmas if we aren’t together?
This has been my dilemma, the thing constantly on my mind. What is Christmas if my family isn’t involved? But slowly, Yahweh has answered: I AM. When my heart feels swept up in the shifting of my life this Christmas season, when traditions are being changed, and when what Christmas “looks like” is flipped on its head, He reminds me time and again that this day has nothing to do with my family.
This day has nothing to do with me. This day has nothing to do with picking out a tree at the tree farm, exchanging presents, and watching countless movies on Hallmark. This is the day we celebrate the awe-inspiring fact that God would send His beloved Son to be born and live among His fallen creation. Often I’m swept up in thinking of the social sacrifices I have to make, when instead I should remember the spiritual and physical sacrifice He offered.
He is the ultimate sacrifice. He is the ultimate reason. He is the ultimate comfort.
Finding Christ in Christmas
I know the Lord sees the aching of my heart. I know He understands the things that I am learning and adjusting to in this newlywed season. Psalm 119:76–77 says: “Let Your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.” I’ve been clinging to these verses this year. There has been a mixture of joy and mourning that always seems to accompany change. But through it all, I know the Lord is there to comfort me, even through something as seemingly trivial as this. Refocusing on His love and His sacrifice has made this time even more special than years before.
I don’t know what this Christmas season will end up looking like. I don’t know what Christmases for the rest of my life will look like. But I do know this: focusing on Christ rather than on traditions has become my greatest comfort.