Ah, Christmas. A time of peace on earth and goodwill amongst men. Not always. At least not always in our house. For most of the year we spend most of the day apart. And we get along just fine! And then there are holidays. And often those are OK. When the weather’s good and there’s a park nearby. But then there’s winter. And we’re indoors. All of us. And there’s barely enough room to swing a cat. And that can lead to some, how shall I say this? ‘Moments’. One of us loses it. And the peace is shattered and whatever goodwill we’d accumulated evaporates. I’m just going to assume that we’re not all that different to everyone else. Close proximity to family members, relational history, weariness, tension and so on make for a potentially toxic mix.
Spare a thought for my parnets this year. Back in teh summer it seemed like a good idea to get all of my immediate family together at our place for Christmas. It’ll be a ‘squash and a squeeze’, we thought. But it’ll be ‘such fun’. What were we thinking? The last time my three younger sisters and I were under the same roof at Christmas was over twenty five years ago. We were teenagers. Squabbling and bickering were our modus operandi. We may have grown up. But have we changed?! And what about our numerous offspring? Are they going to be any different? It’s going to be interesting. I’m praying for decent weather!
The very excellent Paul Tripp has a brilliant illustration where he grabs hold of a bottle of water and shakes it. Then he asks the question of his audience, ‘why did the water come out?’ And we think, ‘you pillock’, it’s because you shook it. And we’re right. And wrong. The answer is that water came out of the bottle because water was in the bottle to begin with. The shaking was the circumstance in which the water came out. It wasn’t the cause.
The reason we lose it is because we’re angry. And the reason that we’re angry is that we’re disproportionately frustrated that we’re not getting what we want. Our desires are not being met. One thing’s for certain, Christmas will be stressful. There’ll be no shortage of circumstances to vent our heart’s frustrations. And there’s little doubt that someone somewhere at some time will press our buttons. They won’t be giving us what we want: peace and quiet, respect, space or whatever. Our instinctive reaction could well be one of anger because we’re not getting what we so desperately want and think we deserve. And the principle cause of that reaction is our desires. They’re not always wholesome. Or holy.
How good it is therefore to remember that the Lord Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at this time of year, had this to say about himself, ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many’. For Jesus, Christmas wasn’t about what he could get out of it. But about what he could give. He wasn’t fussed that no one was giving him what he wanted. He was too focussed on making sure everyone else got what they needed; namely being ransomed from captivity to our sinful way of life. Can you imagine how different our Christmas could be if we were to remember that? Imagine spending Christmas serving others rather than expecting to be served and being angry when we’re not!
I think my parents might enjoy that type of Christmas significantly more than the ones of our teenage years!