Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. Luke 2:14
I overheard a “water cooler” discussion at work about the stress of family gatherings at the holidays. Moaning about aunts, seen only once a year, who comment on family members’ weight gain or lost. Cousins who, when offered leftovers, take enough to keep them fed well into the New Year. Cranky uncles who make it known that they would rather be anywhere else. Fathers-in-law who rant about politics before falling asleep on the couch causing everyone to tiptoe around them for fear of waking them up to continue their tirade. Critical mothers, undisciplined children, jealous sisters, ungrateful sons-in-law, secretive daughters-in-law. (Please note that none of what I have written here applies to my own family!). People who supposedly love us but who treat strangers kinder than they do family. What is it about the holidays that bring out the worst in us? After all, it is the season of merry and bright, the time when we only want to go home, to have a holly, jolly Christmas. I think there are two reasons for this discord. One, our expectations are too high. “Is it too much to ask people to behave themselves-after all it is only one day”, someone at the water cooler said. The answer is yes. It is too much to ask people to be different on Christmas than they are all year long. Aunt Mabel would be critical of your weight if you saw her on 4th of July. You just don’t see her on 4th of July. (Thankfully, since you are likely to be wearing a bathing suit in midsummer). Uncle Joe is always unhappy about politics. He didn’t just wake up on Christmas morning to a new subscription of the Wall Street Journal and suddenly discover our country is in disarray. Cousin Sandra has been annoying since she confiscated your Chatty Cathy doll years ago. Christmas Day is no different from any other day. And two, we ourselves, forget what the day symbolizes. Christmas is about welcoming in the stranger, about loving those who don’t deserve it, about bringing light into the darkness. We are the ones who must be transformed. We are the ones who need a heart transplant. We are called to see our family as God sees them, flawed humans, desperate for attention and acceptance. Not for just one day, but for all year long. Christmas is not supposed to be a magical day for us. It is about giving to others a bit of ourselves and a bit of the hope that Christ came to bring to all people. All people. Including Aunt Mabel and Uncle Joe and Cousin Sandra. On Christmas Day open your home and your heart (even if you have to go to multiple homes and would rather be at your own house), and share the love of Jesus while you hand out food containers to be filled with leftovers and realize nothing will remain for your own leftover meal. After all, it is only one day.