Family At Christmas

A year ago, exactly, I posted some reflections about family and Christmas.  A reader of “Jeske’s Law” inquired as to whether I might be willing to repost it again this year.  I read through it again and decided to honor that request in hopes that it might encourage someone else as it apparently did that reader.  It appears below, exactly as it appeared a year ago with the addition of the picture.

Family ChristmasWhat is “Family”?

Where does “family” fit into a busy world where so many have hardly enough time to figure out what is coming next before whatever it is has already passed us, often leaving us physically disheveled, emotionally unsettled and, perhaps spiritually wrung out, in its wake.

How does “family” work when distances are far too great to be covered with the shrinking travel dollar; or when the gulf of old wounds created by the weaponry of words is far too wide to span with the rickety bridge of rueful regrets and apologetic excuses?

What does “family” mean when “happy holidays revelers” bulldoze the normal routine of life aside and replace it with unfamiliar and even unwelcome choruses of laughter and albums of pasted smiles; or when the interminably long and lonely hours drag the weary and aching heart through the perils of darkness and rigors of uncertainty?

Where is “family” found by the one who utters the feeble plea that is scarcely heard above the noise of living, or by the one who is too proud for pleading because pleading is a confession of needing?

How does “family” respond when the fabric of memory grows threadbare and torn; when rich, warm, and familiar intimacies turn to stark, cold, and alien suspicions?

How does “family” look when once happy relationships now lie as rusty relics on the heap of broken down disappointments; and when once glamorous futures are no more than guttering flames that animate the haunted shadows of the mind?

What does “family” breathe into the sterile lifeless words of love, joy, peace, safety, acceptance; or how does if quietly quell the unhappy heart, quicken the dying hope and quench the terrible fear?

These questions, and more, are disturbing as the world gears up for a holiday celebration that is billed as the “greatest time for making and sharing family traditions in the entire year.”

And yet … traditionally … this time of year is characterized by the highest levels of depression and anxiety among the population.  Suicide rates are higher in December than in any other month of the year. (in the midst of writing this I received news of a 10 or 11 year old girl who took her life last evening by hanging herself). This is much more serious than the crooner who sings, “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you …..”

This is a time when men, women, and children … yes children … stand unnoticed, in the chilling cold, painfully close and yet just outside panes of the house of life where everyone seems to be having a great time making and sharing family holiday memories and traditions.  They are longing to somehow get inside.  Yearning for just a taste, a fleeting glimpse, the faint aroma, even the momentary experience of all that we “say” Christmas means and is.  Isn’t it true, to some degree at least, that you have stood there among them … been one of them?  Who among us can say that we have not?  Not I.

One of the wonders of Christmas is that it established new “family” traditions.  Think of how, and with whom, Christmas began. A poor peasant family, in a dark and dingy stable, in a little out of the way place, hardly worth anyone’s attention.  And yet it captivated the attention of the Throne and hosts of heaven and the hordes of hell!

Through centuries of time, the celebration of that event has taken on a life of its own.  Some might say, with merit, that it has become a monster far removed from its origins.  I care little about the present day glitz and hype and the wild riches which they represent.  Clearly they do not provide the sustenance of ideal familial relationships beyond that which is only superficial. What I find monstrous, however, is the fact that “something” has been left behind in the process.  Without that “something”, perhaps more appropriately that “Someone”, those who enter into the Christmas experience fashioned by the successive generations of our world enter through a door, festooned with mistletoe and holly, over which has been inscribed: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. No love and cheer.  No peace and joy.  Rather, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

Regardless of your level of satisfaction, or lack of it, with familial relationships of the earthly variety there is reason to celebrate.  It is found in remembering the “Someone” who has been left behind in the process of the evolution of Christmas celebration.  It’s the Baby, who is Jesus (the Savior), Emmanuel (God with us).  God in his infinite wisdom, mercy, grace and love established through this humble peasant family, a family of His own making.  Through the gift of His Son, He made it possible for any and all to really know the benefits of “family” through every one of the vicissitudes of this earthly experience called “life.”

Are you a member of that “family”?  Can you sing this Christmas carol from the heart?

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as I travel this sod.
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.

You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here,
It’s because we’re a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but PRAISE GOD! I belong!

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as I travel this sod.
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.

Healthy and functional familial relationships of the earthly sort are certainly important and they add a wonderful richness to life and times of celebration.  Of superior value and importance, however, is the fulfilling familial relationship of the heavenly sort, forged by the grace of God upon the basis of one’s faith in Christ as the Savior.  Don’t let this Christmas pass without making that choice of faith to enter into that family.

May God grant you a wonderful sense of “family” as we celebrate under the watchful eye of our Heavenly Father

O Come, Let Us Adore Him!  Merry Christmas Everyone!