We were driving along in the car when I asked my friend if she’d started Christmas shopping yet. Being that it was October and she’s not neurotic compulsive like me, she said, “No”. Then we started to talk.
Before long, she was opening up about the fact that this Christmas would be very different for her and her children because of the new custody arrangement negotiated between she and her ex-husband. She said, “It just feels like Christmas will never be the same again…and that’s really sad.”
Even though I’ve never been married or divorced, I could relate. You see, I know all too well what it’s like to have all of your Christmas traditions change and to feel like Christmas will be different forever.
I’ve struggled with what to do, how to change, and how to celebrate when pain becomes involved in the celebration.
You see, when I was growing up we had the big family Christmas filled with lots of family. As my cousins grew older and had kids and grandkids of their own, the extended family celebrations ended and we began started celebrating with just our immediate family. That was a big change that required a lot of adjustments. Yet it was nothing compared to what was to come.
A few years ago, my Mom went to Heaven and I could barely celebrate at all. Because our Dad doesn't celebrate Christmas, my brother and I felt so alone and empty. The first year was simply too painful and grief-stricken.
The second year was a little better and a little worse all at the same time. Even though each Christmas since then has been slightly easier, the two truths my brother and I have had to face are that Christmas will never again be like it was and we’re going to have to learn how to celebrate in a new way if we’re going to enjoy the holiday.
Oddly enough, the Holy Spirit used my Mom’s own words to help us learn discover these truths. One year as I was asking, “How do we celebrate Christmas from here…with no family and no traditions?”, He reminded me that many years ago my Mom gave each of us journals for Christmas.
Inside she wrote a message from her heart. As I was praying, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the very end of her message. It read:
“When you leave, leave. Start new. Make a brand new creation….Don’t follow us and our ways but the Master’s ways and His will. I positively love you, Mom”.
You see, all those years ago when my Mom wrote those words, she knew life was going to change. Of course, she thought I would be the one leaving and having a family of my own. However, God didn’t choose that path and she was the first to leave home to go to Heaven. Still, as I read those words they showed me exactly what Jamie and I needed to do this holiday season. We needed to start a new life following Jesus and not clinging to the old ways of the past.
The truth is that life is always in transition. While there is nothing inherently wrong with Christmas traditions, they really aren’t practical or realistic.
Even without a divorce, families are always changing. Yesterday’s baby is today’s toddler. Before you know it, she’ll be tomorrow’s teenager. You are never going to get a teenager to enjoy the same traditions as a toddler. It’s impossible. Just like you don’t expect you’re 13 year old to still believe in Santa Claus, you can’t expect the holidays to stay the same. Change is an inevitable part of every life, every family, and every relationship.
However, with the right attitude on your part, this doesn’t have to be a cause for sadness. Instead of missing days gone by, think about all the things you have to look forward to! There are new adventures and new surprises awaiting each new step of the journey. If you choose to embrace the change and the new way of doing things, your life will only become fuller and your relationships will grow deeper.
This reminds me of a question asked to an elderly gentleman by his grandchildren.
They said, “Grandpa, out of all the Christmas’ you’ve known, which one was your favorite?”
He replied, “My favorite is next year’s Christmas—I can’t wait to see what happens!”
This Christmas, as you prepare for your family’s Christmas celebration, I challenge you to ask yourselves some questions:
Has your family outgrown some of your holiday traditions?
Are you clinging to the past or the way you think things should be rather than choosing to go with the flow and change with the seasons?
Are you focusing on traditions or memories?
Is it time to make some changes to accommodate your family’s growth and change?
Are you willing to make accommodations for people’s changing lives or are you demanding they do things your way?
Is the Holy Spirit leading you and your family to try something new this Christmas?
As you prayerfully consider these questions, I hope that you will choose to open yourself up to any changes that the Holy Spirit wants to make to your Christmas traditions. I challenge you, no matter what stage of life you and your family are entering, to enjoy this Christmas.
See the change as an adventure instead of a hassle and embrace it with anticipation.
Love the people in your life just as they are now—not wishing for either the past or the future.
If traditions are holding you back from truly enjoying your Christmas, I pray that you will let them go. Focus on enjoying this year with the people God has placed in your life….it’s one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give yourself and your children. Merry Christmas!