It’s not like I actually “plan” it… it just seems to happen. It’s the same every year. Stay up too late wrapping gifts, make sure Santa has come and gone, get up too early, open gifts, drink coffee, saying thank yous and i love yous….then back to bed for a nap before i have to get started on Christmas dinner. That’s just the way it is….. was….
Our daughter got married this year. So we got a new son in law. Tall, handsome, loves our princess and showers her with affection. He’s my kind of son in law. I’ve loved him for a long time. He grew up in church with us. I’ve known him since he was like 3 years old. So it’s not been hard to come along side his family and love our kids together. After all, his mother and I have been going on mission trips to mexico for more than 10 years cooking for the crew, being the moms of the trip with bandaids and encouragement and a good breakfast before a long day of work. So, we love our new family extension. We know each other’s secrets, we’ve been praying for each other’s kids for years, We play well together.
Then came Christmas, I had it all planned out in my head. Everyone can stay overnight on Christmas eve, we can wake up in the morning and follow the natural progression of things. I mean, I’d have to get dressed at some point during the morning but other than that, there didn’t really need to be any diversion from the plan. This was exciting! The new family can be just blended into Christmas with us. We have blended in others in the past and we loved it. So, invitations were extended and i began planning in my head just how this event was going to go down. (I do this “planning” thing in my head all the time. Not because i have to have control, which is easier for me, but because i don’t want to forget something and hurt feelings and so forth. It’s a self preservation thing.)
Then, it happened! They said they weren’t coming. My daughters mother in law let me know that she and her daughter would be spending the night at their own home, and that they wanted to host breakfast. Christmas breakfast was the big deal for their family over the years so they wanted to do breakfast. Just like they’d always done. It was the natural progression of things.
Oh, OK. So my daughter and her husband would spend the night Christmas eve and we would wake up early, do presents and go to breakfast..no big deal, in fact, it was sort of exciting. It was a new tradition and it was an adventure. I’m game!
Then it happened! My daughter texted me. “David is out” meaning my hard working son in law had gone to sleep whilst waiting for my daughter to get off work. She couldn’t get him to wake up so she was letting me know they wouldn’t be sleeping over. That they would see us at breakfast. Oh, ok. So, i don’t need to worry about wrapping all these gifts tonight. Not even the jammies. Everyone gets jammies on Christmas eve. We unwrap one present right before bedtime and look! it’s new jammies so we can look good in the pictures in the morning. But not this year. The daughter wasn’t coming, the eldest son (home from his service in the US Navy) had plans and wasn’t even home anyway and the youngest son, age 17, didn’t seem concerned. So, alrighty then, no jammies. Its 9pm. I’m going to bed.
Morning came and my husband said, “Ok, lets do presents.”
WHAT!!! We cant do presents silly, Melissa and David aren’t here! We will have to do them after breakfast. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. It was a little perplexing and disorienting. This was not just “our” Christmas. This was becoming evident. So, we got dressed (not something i do on Christmas morning) and we got in the car (not something i do on Christmas morning) and we drove the 10 minutes to the in-laws house. Not begrudgingly, i was looking forward to it. It just wasn’t the way I planned it.
Then it happened! We got to the house and was greeted by my daughter waiting in the front yard and meeting me with a hug before i could even get into the gate. (It made my heart smile. She still wants to hug her momma on Christmas morning.) We walked in the front door and was greeted with hugs and handshakes, smiles and laughter, and the smell of a really, really good breakfast. We weren’t the only guests. There were friends and extended family there must have been 15 of us in this tiny little house. But it wasn’t crowded, in fact it was so warm and cozy, inviting and joyful. This wasn’t at all like I planned it. It was better! There were presents for everyone. Gifts were opened by everyone simultaneously and it was hard to know who got what, but there were smiles, then hugs, thank yous and I love yous were generously tossed about being caught, little by little by just the right heart. So there we were, having Christmas. It was clearly going to be the new normal. We left for home after a couple of hours, hugs, handshakes and “nice to meet you” greetings were exchanged and off we went.
We hadden’t been home long before my eldest son (active duty US Navy) had to go back to the base so he could check in the next morning for duty. So with out fanfare and without his sister and brother in law, he opened his gifts with just me and dad and his brother. He couldn’t stay for Christmas dinner, but i wasn’t upset. It was just not a regular Christmas and this was just another hint of the new normal.
The new in-laws made their way to our house for dinner we talked and laughed. Sharing a meal is the best way to really get to sit down and chat. You’re sort of a captive audience. So there we were, our new family, joined together by our two children, irrevocably bonded. Presents came after dinner. Weird, after dinner?
Then it happened! As the gifts were being revealed, one at a time, in a methodical way, the in-laws learned how we did presents. There was a system, open this first then that. It will all make sense. We laughed, and cried as gifts were opened and explanations given for why this gift was significant or the thought behind it. Then the thank yous and i love yous were again floating in the air, caught by the hearts they were intended for.
So, here’s the point. Christmas isn’t a postcard. It’s not a picture you have in your head about how things are supposed to go. Our existence doesn’t hang on if we open gifts before or after breakfast. The world didn’t explode because i got out of my pajamas before 9am. It wasn’t MY Christmas. It was OUR Christmas. It was made better by the unexpected mixed with the expected. The big breakfast hadn’t been our thing before and the big dinner hadn’t been theirs. But together, we had two great meals, enjoying fellowship and loving on one another. It made our kids happy. It couldn’t have been easy (especially on my daughter) to discern how the two worlds would collide and how she would navigate being in the middle. We got up a little early and they stayed up a little late. We loved one another enough to say, “Oh, you do it like that? Well alrighty then, lets do it your way.” It didn’t have to be either/or. It could be both. So if your Christmas didn’t turnout the way you expected, If it just wasn’t the way you always did it. Take this into consideration. It’s not about YOU and it’s not about ME. It’s about Christ, His birth, His celebration. I mean, that first Christmas didn’t exactly turn out the way Mary planned it either did it? And look how that worked out…. for all of us!