Before you even BEGIN to think about this coming Christmas, STOP and read Alexandra Kuykendall’s words as she reminds us of what we tend to forget, and therefore how we often miss Christmas altogether.
Loving My Actual Christmas. No, Really.
By Alexandra Kuykendall
It’s that time of year again?! Time to bring out the decorations, to look at the budget and to decide whose turn it is to host all of the chaos … I mean festivities?
As the calendar page turns from October to November, there’s no denying Christmas is coming our way at full speed. Perhaps this is welcome news. You look forward to the baking, decorating, gift giving. Perhaps it is pure dread. The idea of another Christmas with the empty seat at the table, with the tension of family dynamics, with the budget arguments and holiday disappointments is too much to bear. And perhaps you are somewhere in the middle. Hopeful this year will be fun, but the stress of executing the holiday hangs over you like an ominous cloud.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve picked up ideas about what Christmas should be. The magic and special and over the top experience. From our childhood to Pinterest we’ve conjured up pictures of an ideal. And our actual lives often don’t comply. This annual marker can be just that—a reminder of what we wish was different. We can find ourselves focused on when and if only. When … we have a bigger house, a bigger budget, another baby, then we’ll have the perfect Christmas. If only … my family were closer, we could afford to go away, we didn’t have work stress, then this would be an enjoyable holiday. And in the middle of all those whens and if onlys we begin to resent our actual circumstances and miss the message of hope at the center of this sacred holiday.
I often forget God came in the middle of the chaos. Of the inconvenient. He didn’t experience the Pinterest-perfect Christmas. There were no decorations or Black Friday sales or garlands on the mantle. There were however heavy family dynamics (think Joseph and Mary’s parents, not what they had in mind), there were money issues (census counting, tax issues, and no hotel) and they were exhausted (she gave birth in a barn! No epidural, no midwife, no ice chips. Just a first time teen mom who likely found little birthing coaching from Joseph.) As far as Christmas stress goes, that first cast of characters really set the standard for the rest of us. Maybe we should take a clue from them.
Yes! We can shift our idea of what Christmas should be. Forget the Hallmark Channel and look at why God came. He came for the broken hearted, for the darkness, for the grief and despair. If we are in those places, even a little, our hearts are more prepared to receive the good news of his arrival. If we are in a place of stress, uncertainty and doubt, we need look no further than Mary and Joseph. And we can join them as we marvel at the miracle of the baby. Every new life, new set of toes, is a miracle. But this one changed the history of humanity.
As the angels said to the shepherds that first Christmas night:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” –Luke 2: 14
God, who formed the solar system, and thought the ecosystem into place, that God, came as a human baby to a village girl, born in the dung and the straw. He could have come any way he chose, and his way was the way of humility so we might hear words he had to say.
It truly is hard to believe. That God so loved the world he sent … a baby. But that’s the way it happened.
You can read more about Alexandra Kuykendall’s experiment to put an end to the holiday madness in her new book Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season. She is the cohost of The Open Door Sisterhood Podcast and has also authored Loving My Actual Life and The Artist’s Daughter. Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband Derek and their four daughters. You can connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.