I think that one of the hardest parts about transitioning from married to married with kids during the holidays is feeling like you have to keep up with family traditions. I remember during the early years of our marriage before the kids came along, we continued to go to each of our parents’ houses and partake in the traditions that they had always done. And I’ve got to admit, it was so much fun. Not only did it give me a sweet insight into my husband’s childhood and him into mine, but it gave us really precious time with our families and allowed our parents to have all of their chicks back in the nest for the holidays.
But now that we have kids? Now all we want is to have ourselves our own merry little Christmas. And sometimes it’s hard to find that driving between four family gatherings and trying to wrap every last gift for that uncle you haven’t seen since last Christmas. What we long for is a silent night together celebrating the birth of Christ instead of meticulously splitting time up between our families and rationing out our emotions jumping from one house to the next.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to ration my emotions so much to everyone else that I don’t have any left to give my kids or my husband. Because it’s in this season that I want to give them as much of my heart as I possibly can.
Now before you get all sorts of jingle bell ragey, hear me out. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to be with our parents or in-laws during the Christmas season. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to get together for big, extended family gatherings and continue to indulge in some of the old traditions from our childhoods. And it certainly doesn’t mean our family isn’t important to us anymore. Because honestly? Being together with family during the holidays is so good. God designed us for togetherness.
But what it does mean is that we want to be intentional in our time with our kids and create our own memories that they will look back on with fondness; to create a space that ushers in the joy of Jesus and the peace that his birth brought in Bethlehem so many years ago. What it means is protecting the sacred space of family and allowing ourselves the time to see the Christmas sparkle in one another’s eyes.
It’s choosing to be present in the moment.
Some years for our family, that means spending Christmas Eve together just the five of us around the tree while my husband reads the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2, then waking up to open presents the next morning. Other years, we are traveling and we have our “Christmas Eve/Morning” a few nights early and we choose to carve out those precious days just for our family, saying no to other get-togethers that are going on. But every year it’s the same—we make a conscious choice to say “no” to something good, so that we can say “yes” to something better for our family (1 Corinthians 10:23). And for our family, that means having our own Christmas and making sure that we protect it.
So Aunt Susie and Uncle Ralph, if we decline your invitation to the annual family Christmas game night, it isn’t because we are humbugs. And Mom and Dad, if we aren’t there bright and early Christmas morning, it isn’t because we don’t want to spend that time with you. It’s because we’re choosing the stillness of a silent night and a holy morning. And there’s no place we’d rather be.
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