I’m sitting here today thinking back over the Christmases we just had. What? You only have one Christmas? Two maybe? For us, Christmas is a marathon of celebration, which is often part of life when you have divorced parents. We spent Christmas Eve with my in-laws, Christmas day here at home, Boxing Day with my mom and Sunday with my dad and his wife.
And I’m exhausted.
The kids are tired.
I made a roast today because no matter how much food I eat at holiday gatherings (or how good it is), I always feel like I’ve been eating drive-thru dinners for a week. A roast is also a set-it-and-forget-it kind of meal, which is good when you just want to go back to bed.
And, emotions tend to run high around the holidays. Or at least they do at my house. I think it’s a mixture of exhaustion and perfection…or at least the desire for it. We want everyone to be happy, no one to be disappointed and everyone to get along like life’s an episode of The Brady Bunch…without Jan or “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”
But the truth is….
Holidays can be hard.
Because there is NO perfect family.
I collect nativity scenes. I have them from all over the world, and each year, my husband finds a new one for me. This year, he gave me this one:
It’s small and simple and beautiful. It also looks really good in my living room. If you see my husband, high five him for me.
Look closely at the family in the nativity. It’s an image you’re probably accustomed to.
The Holy Family. The Nativity.
I just wonder if we all need to remember one thing about them.
Even their family wasn’t perfect.
Christmas isn’t about a perfect, little family perched around a manger.
It’s about the perfect child who was placed in it.
Jesus grew up in a family full of people who were…well…people. Fully human and fully flawed.
Think about it….
Ever lost your child in Walmart? Terrible fear and guilt wash over you? Jesus’ parents left him in Jerusalem and traveled for a day before realizing it. Then it took them three more days to find him. (Luke 2:41-50) Feel a little better now?
Sibling rivalry isn’t unique to us, either. I get a sense Jesus felt his fair share of it in John 7. I’m not sure what the purpose of his brothers’ suggestions was, but it’s clear “even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
Ever feel like you’re closer to your friends than your family? Look at Matthew 7:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21. Think of how Mary probably felt when she heard what he said. “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Ouch.
Y’all, I’m not criticizing Mary or Joseph or their children. I’m just wanting to remind you that they were just like us. Except the Messiah was their son and their brother.
They needed him to make their hearts right just as much as we do, and he understands that family dynamics can be a lot like dynamite, too.
So when you see a nativity scene, see what’s really there: the Messiah taking his place among people. Real ones. A family made of flesh.
“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
He became part of their family so we could become part of his.
He joined us in the imperfect so we could all be made perfect.
That’s the story of Christmas, and it’s the hope we have for all of our holidays…no matter how hard they may be.