Because sometimes the “most wonderful time of the year” can be a little complicated …

Yes, it’s Christmas time again — and yes I think I’ve gone a little overboard in the area of purchases again!

And, yes, I know that I haven’t written for a while, probably due to all the Christmas shopping I’ve been doing?

At our place Christmas is a bit of a mixed up day – a mixed up day that slots nicely into our mixed up kind of life.

Our kids divide the day between their two homes. Each year they spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at one home and Christmas afternoon and Boxing Day at the other. Then the following year they do the opposite. Thankfully, the arrangements coincide so we have all three in our home at the same time each Christmas. So, to answer the frequently asked question, “Are you going away for Christmas this year?” No, no we are not. We will be at home. It’s hard to make plans for a day that has to be cut in half – well other than that being the plan.

Years ago, I remember a student being asked what the worst thing was about his parents’ divorce, his response – “I hate Christmas.” I could see the kids who had one Christmas wondering — how could two Christmases be a bad thing?

At the time it made me a little teary. At that time my boy had been doing two Christmases for a while and I had seen the two Christmas experience first hand. He was still pretty excited about the whole concept of two sets of presents. I guess for a kid there’s always the hope if I don’t get what I want at one house there’s always hope I’ll get it at the other. But I did suspect the time would come when the novelty wore off. I think it might be starting to now. I hear the three of them talking about how bad it is, you get your presents, you open them – then you have to leave them to go to another house to get more presents open them and then leave them. I think the day is a bit draining for them emotionally, as well as for us.

One thing about those of us who have a complex Christmas is that we are inclined to look at those around who are having the simple (relatively uncomplicated) family Christmas and feel envious…

We are inclined to forget that the first Christmas involved a very unconventional family, far from home.

A man, with his wife, travelling for a census. To complicate matters, she’s due to give birth any day to a child, that is not only not his, but a child he had been asked to believe is the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. How’s that for complex? There they are, the beginners of Christmas, a soon-to-be step family, far away from home, comfort and family.

We are inclined to forget that Christmas is actually the time of year that highlights just how much we need the Saviour who was born into the world. The One born to heal, to bring us peace, to bring us joy, to bring us the hope of better and more to come.

Christmas is meant to be about the world recognising its need for the greatest gift that was ever given – the person of Christ. Christmas is meant to be about receiving a gift that you can’t earn, no matter how “good” you try to be. Christmas is meant to be about the generosity of the giver who knows what you need is far more important than what you want.

I grimace slightly as I consider using the phrase “true meaning of Christmas” because it’s a phrase that has been massively overused. It has also been re-packaged so that Christmas becomes about buying expensive gifts, and having big family gatherings and, if you watch enough Christmas movies, “magic”. The reality is that the first christmas was about so much more …

The first Christmas was about a lost world being given hope, a gift. It was about a world being given more than it deserved, more than it requested, more than it desired, more than it had ever dreamed of.

Christmas is a time to focus on the gift, the gift that was given to us in the form of a helpless baby. The baby who was born so that He would one day die for us. The baby who grew into the man who at 33 years of age died to give us eternal life. The baby who was announced as Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.

So, my friend, if Christmas is a bit of a complex, painful time for you – that might just be because you are doing it right.

You might have half of your day alone as your kids head off to the other half of their family.
You might be one of the “kids” – who has to do this day between two homes, two sets of loved ones, two families and two worlds.
You might be sitting at the bedside of an ill loved one.
You might be about to celebrate your first Christmas since the death of a loved one.
You might, quite simply be lonely – you might look at the families celebrating Christmas all around you and wonder when it will be your turn …
You, yourself might be ill – and you may be wondering if this is your last Christmas.
Or you might be someone who has been displaced, some one who is far from peace, family and comfort.

My friend, if Christmas is a bit complex for you — let the truth sink in … Christmas day itself is never going to bring you the fulfilment you desire – there is no present under your tree that will fill your heart the way the person of Christ will. No family gathering will bring you the peace and joy that comes from knowing that you are a child of God and a member of the family of God.
The one we celebrate at Christmas, and your relationship with Him is where you will find the sense of belonging and fulfilment you need.

Your Christmases may still be complex – but I think that puts you in pretty good company.

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