I woke up before 5 am today (thank you late-stage pregnancy hormones!) realizing it is Christmas Eve. It kinda surprised me because it felt so “ordinary.” Our Christmas season this year has been very different from what our family normally experiences. Because I’m 38 weeks pregnant now (and my first-born came at 38 weeks), we’ve not travelled at all this December. That’s unusual because we almost always head to our hometown for the holidays to celebrate with all our family members. We’re still seeing/have seen both sets of extended family this season, we just don’t have anyone here right now, so this morning felt no different than usual as I awakened to our little family of three (and one on the way in the belly) this morning.
I realized this morning that I have been “reflecting” a lot this Christmas season because things have been different for us this year due to the timing of this pregnancy. We haven’t done many “seasonal” things this year, our celebrations have been very minimal, and I’ve had a lot more time than usual to read this December, so I’ve been mulling over a lot of stuff I’ve seen in the news and on social media lately. Here are a few things observations and lessons I’ve learned this holiday season:
1. My son’s favorite Christmas present thus far is a science kit…Quality time is the best gift of all
Since our family is immobile this Christmas season, my parents and sister (and her son) travelled to our place this past weekend so we could all celebrate the holidays together. The adults decided not to exchange presents with one another (we all basically just passed around checks or gift cards) and instead we only did some presents for the boys (my son, who is 4 and my nephew who is around 20 months). We didn’t worry about planning holiday meals. Things were much more low-key than usual. Honestly, this will probably be one of my most memorable Christmas celebrations with my family. We just enjoyed each other and were grateful to be able to spend time together. It was a very last-minute decision for them to pop over for the weekend (as we have all been waiting to see what baby in the belly is up to), but it was such a lovely memory. We did not really do any holiday stuff over the weekend other than giving the boys their gifts (i.e. no visiting Santa, no looking at lights, etc).
After my family left, I asked Shaan what his favorite gift was so far. Of course, he received some really neat toys from my parents and sister. My parents also gave him some educational resources, including a science kit. When he opened it up, we all laughed because he seemed very underwhelmed by it when compared to other toys with bells and whistles. However, over the weekend, my dad pulled out the science kit and spent a lot of one-on-one time with him performing the experiments. After my family left, my husband did some experiments with him as well. So, when it was all said and done he claimed that this science was his favorite present (the educational one – who would have thought!) You know what I think helped him make that decision? The one-on-one time with “Sandman” and “Daddy” in conducting the experiments:
2. We all need to get our ducks in a row…social media can dangerously distract us from “the real world.”
First of all, I have never seen one episode of Duck Dynasty, so I have no particular affinity or lack thereof to Phil Robertson or the rest of the Duck Dynasty cast. I will therefore refrain from speaking about all that has exploded on the web (particularly social media) over the last week and instead ask this question…could it be that the social media attention given to this particular incident is almost an indictment of Western Christianity? I have a lot of friends (Christian and non-Christian) who have offered varying (and in many cases – heated?) opinions on this topic over social media. Yet, I can’t stop from scratching my head at how “T-H-I-S” is what we all get fired up about. In 1 Corinthians 15:19 Paul states that “if in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Paul’s amazing statement is that the life he has chosen in Christ is pitiable if there is no resurrection. How many of us Christians (particularly Western Christians) could say, “The lifestyle I have chosen as a Christian would be utterly foolish and pitiable if there is no resurrection?” How many of us could say, “The suffering I have freely chosen to embrace for Christ would be a pitiable life if there is no resurrection?” I know I couldn’t. I read the posts on social media, I form opinions, I start falling into the trap of thinking “T-H-I-S” is really so important and then I read about this 7 year old boy from Rajasthan, India (a state I’ve visited several times as my in-laws are from there) who was brutally tortured and murdered for being a Christian:
Or I see how the world is virtually ignoring the annihilation of Christians in Syria. Instead of talking about THIS: “World Turns Away as Rebel Massacres of Syrian Christians Intensify”, we are talking about THIS: “Duck Dynasty Controversy”. Instead of raising arms about our brothers and sisters who are truly being persecuted and who know what it really means to have a foolish and pitiable life if there is no resurrection, we talk about the personal viewpoints of a celebrity with a net worth of $15 million and we make that news. Did you hear me? We make “T-H-A-T” news? We, the ones who post about it, make it news. We are doing this ourselves. And that is fine…I am not saying that we shouldn’t draw attention to certain things, but if we are going to spend our efforts drawing attention to certain things…shouldn’t some of the above be what we are choosing to focus on while using social media? Even for my non-Christian friends (many of whom are not religious per se, but fight for equal rights – for instance, the rights of the gay/lesbian community) – if you are so fired up about the rights of others and the freedoms of others, shouldn’t you also be fired up about people who are DYING…being MURDERED…being TORTURED for their personal beliefs? Shouldn’t we all (Christian and non-Christian alike) be working towards a common goal and talking about these kinds of things instead of fighting each other on social media about comments and personal viewpoints of celebrities?
Aren’t we ALL missing the big picture here? Myself included…I am as guilty as anyone…
3. The birth of Jesus is not the beginning of the story. It’s the middle….
A few weeks ago, our pastor spoke of how we (as a culture) have a tendency of treating the birth of Jesus as the beginning of the story. We start at the birth of Jesus, and move on to the resurrection, and we totally gloss over WHY Jesus had to come into our mess of a world this time of year. He likened it to seeing the movie “Inception” and entering the movie 10 minutes late (if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s one of those where you have to see the beginning to understand what is happening the rest of the movie).
So, yesterday, my husband called to tell me a horrific story of a distraught man threw his 3 year old son off a 52nd story building in Manhattan, then jumped and committed suicide. The reason my husband called to tell me this awful story was because the building where all this happened was right across the street from where we lived for 5 years in New York.
My son was in the car with me and overheard pieces of my phone conversation and started asking me questions. Instead of blowing off the conversation, I felt compelled to give him bits and pieces and try and use this as a teaching opportunity for why we all need Jesus. We don’t live in a picture-perfect world. Sometimes, I wonder if we shelter children too much from sin and the effects of the fall. There has always been persecution and suffering surrounding God’s people. Think of the time of Jesus’ birth when Herod commanded the genocide of all baby boys…there are tough things to explain in the Bible and tough things to explain in real life. So, we talked about it. I think it’s important. We talked about how this boy and how his daddy did something terrible. We prayed for this family – we prayed specifically that the boy went to be with Jesus. We talked about how God hurts at such evil and that’s why Jesus had to come for us to make things right and change hearts from the inside out. We had a pretty hefty discussion. I don’t know whether it was the right thing to do or not, but I do know that the saccharine-sweet version of the birth of Jesus that uses the birth as the start of the story is not reality. Just look at #2 above. My son needs to know that, or I fear he will never understand the story (similar to how you come into a movie 10 minutes in). The suffering, the mess, the ugliness is WHY he had to come. It’s still ugly. It’s why we still need HIM. All of us.
Speaking of, if you have little ones, something you may want to try next year during Advent season to help children understand that the birth of Jesus is not the beginning of the story is a Jesse Tree. We did not do one this year, but it’s definitely something I want to implement next year.
Anyway, enough of my random musings on what is an ordinary Christmas Eve for our family. May all of you have a very ordinary Christmas Eve as well and take some time to reflect on “the middle of the story.” I hope you are blessed with “quality time” with your family and that we all take time to praise Jesus for coming into our mess. Take some time to pray for those who are not able to enjoy a festive gathering this Christmas as many of us in the West are able to – God bless you all this holiday season. Merry Christmas. Thank, you, Lord – “God with us!”