The Christmas season was not always a happy time for me. During the early childhood years, I believed I had traditional Christmases. I remember my mom stressing out over my grandparents and aunt and uncle coming to visit from other states and staying an entire week. Mom would often invite one of her closest friends who was a widow and no children or family to join us. We had a house full of people and I being the youngest was spoiled with every imaginable toy, new clothes, and the richest cookies and candies from across the world.
When I was in my teenage years, Christmas holidays were not so enjoyable anymore. Grandpa and my uncle had gone home to be with the Lord, my grandmother had moved in with us, my sister was married with her own family, and I became savvy about how much my mother and grandmother drank, especially at Christmas.
When my sister, husband, and children would arrive, they were often late for Christmas dinner, causing my mother further stress and anger. She would then drink more. My mother was not a doting grandmother either. Children annoyed her. Knowing when the grandsons were coming, she would spend a couple of hours “Childproofing” the house. I always enjoyed playing with my three nephews (It became my responsibility to keep the boys entertained), and they were a nice distraction from the drunken fighting and arguing that often took place.
Then, at age 23, my life and holidays would be changed forever. My sister and her husband had divorced, and, my mother passed away two weeks into the new year. That was when I became angry with God and turned away from Him for many years. I no longer had a “home.” My grandmother moved in with my sister, and we had to put the house on the market. When Christmas rolled around, I spent a couple of them at my sister’s, but there was a new man in the picture who was an alcoholic, as were his parents. He also had six children. Her small house wasn’t large enough for everyone to sit together and so we all found places on the floor, fireplace hearth, and steps to have dinner. There was so much drinking and arguing; I couldn’t stand going another year. For several Christmases, I spent alone in my new home. I remember feeling so resentful and depressed — no presents, no Christmas dinner, and no family. I was alone. It was difficult, and I hated Christmas.
When I gave my life to the Lord in 2004, my life and my views completely changed. It was time to make new traditions with my husband. We’d sometimes go camping over Christmas, go to a nice lodge, or stay home and watch Christmas movies. We have the Lord and each other. We feel blessed that we no longer have to deal with the expense and stress of Christmas gifts for each other and family. We prefer to set a budget that we would spend on gifts for ourselves and others and donate that money to a family in need. I still decorate the house and put up a Christmas tree, but next year, I would like to do something different.
The season is really about Jesus’ birth. As I’ve grown in Christ, I am moving away from the secular celebration of Christmas in this country. Santa, reindeer, snowmen, Christmas trees have absolutely nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas. I have heard the Christmas story many times from many different pastors this year, and they all have opened my eyes. Instead of a huge Christmas tree that takes up a good portion of the living room, I would like my husband to build a manger scene similar to what we would imagine it looked like on the day Jesus was born (not the sanitized secular type version). I believe this would help both of us to keep our heart on the true meaning of Christmas and not get caught up in the secular traditions or the sadness of not having our family members to celebrate together. Knowing what Jesus was born to do for us is the greatest gift any of us could receive. The best gift we could give Jesus in return would be to follow Him and go out and make disciples. May you all keep the true meaning of Christmas, not just during the season, but through the entire year.