Summary: Can you make room in your homes and families for Jesus this Christmas season?
Christmas at the Kitchen Table
December 9, 2007
Toni and I have some friends who have two daughters the same age as our youngest two children. I’m actually amazed that we’re friends because our families are so different. We are not at opposite ends of the Annual Conference and so we don’t see each other too often anymore.
When we would be invited to dinner at their place, everything would be immaculate. The table would be beautifully set. The house would be cleaned to within an inch of its life. Their two daughters were so well-behaved that we hardly knew they were there. Their family life was straight out of “Ozzie and Harriett.”
By way of contrast, when they would come to our house, it would seem like a scene right out of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” The last time we had them over for dinner, we were living in Elkhart. After dinner, the adults were talking in the living room, catching up with each other, and the kids (they were in high school at the time) were in the family room watching television.
All of a sudden we heard a loud, awful profanity issue forth from the TV. One of our boys (and I still don’t know which one) had brought home a really raunchy “R” rated video. No, they were not allowed to watch those things (at least when we had some control over it), but they obviously thought they could put one over on mom and dad, and that with company there, we wouldn’t notice. Plus, my boys being who my boys are took a real delight in scandalizing these two young ladies and went out of their way to shock them with their behavior.
When I watch our friends – and they really are friends, and have been very important to us – they always make me think of those Christmas commercials on television. You know the ones: the perfect family is gathered around the perfect dinner table with the perfectly roasted turkey and the perfectly behaved children and the perfectly jolly grandpa seated at the head of the table with the perfectly decorated Christmas tree in the background.
When I watch those things on TV, I feel a not-to-subtle pressure to live up to expectations that we will never be able to meet. We like to believe that the Christmas season is a peaceful season, but the reality is that it is a season in which we work ourselves into a frenzy with all of the decorating and cooking and cleaning and partying and shopping. It’s hard to relax when the traffic at the mall makes you want to tear your hair out, when every charity in the world wants your money, when the dog eats tinsel from the Christmas tree, and when “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” blares from your radio every time you get into the car.
My guess is that things are not too much different with young families now than they were when our family was young. When Christmas Eve rolls around, mom is dead-tired, Dad is cranky, and the kids are hopped up on sugar and red dye. I guess it’s not too surprising that the levels of depression rise during this season because the reality doesn’t live up to the expectation.
I always say that the two most important seasons of the year – Advent and Easter – are so busy around the church that it is hard to find the time to focus on their real meanings. That is especially true for the Christmas season.
I’ve told you before that among my best friends are a couple of Veterinarians who practice in Sturgis, Michigan. She specializes in small animals and he in large animals. Last week, she sent me some medication for our dogs through the mail. I e-mailed her a thank-you note and told her how crazy busy this season is around the church. I told her that it was only December 1st and already I felt like I needed a break. I asked her – jokingly - if Byron needed anybody to help him de-horn cattle or bleed hogs. I’ve helped him with both of those things before, and so have some experience. Maybe I could apply for a job.
Obviously I was joking – his work is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter and too stinky in every season. Besides, although I complain a lot, this is a crazy season for everybody, not just me. I know that my Veterinarian friends with their two teenagers are feeling the same sort of chronic busyness in their lives.
We all want to have the sort of tranquil life that could be put on a greeting card or a television commercial for eggnog, but that’s not going to happen…to any of us. Modern life is just too busy to begin with. Then we throw all of the holiday stuff into the mix, and it gets even crazier.