For years I thought that Christmas was about the perfect family holiday, full of traditions, and food made only once a year, and the perfect gifts, and everyone you love around you all happy and enjoying one another. After I was married and had a home of my own, I worked tirelessly (OK, I actually was VERY tired) to create the perfect holiday traditions for my family, incorporating some of my own childhood traditions with my husband's, and some of our own ideas as well. When the kids came along, I renewed my efforts to weave together the real meaning of Christmas with our own special ways of celebrating it and enjoying one another. Of course, every year, I got to Christmas day with those few things still unfinished, with a couple presents forgotten--it wasn't perfect, but it came close. Or did it? Our first Christmas with our first baby was also the first Christmas after my mom went home to be with the Lord. One Christmas my husband completely missed Christmas day because he had food poisoning. Many Christmas celebrations found my husband out working his beat as a sheriff's deputy, or us rushing from one family member's house to another's, ending the day exhausted.
For years I thought I knew what God wanted me to have in the way of a "perfect" family. Oh, not perfect in the sense of sinless, but living our lives together biblically and growing in our love and service of Jesus and one another. I worked very hard to be what I thought was the "perfect" wife and mother. I tried to encourage my husband to be the best he could be and I also tried to show grace and forgiveness when he wasn't (because I knew full well I wasn't!) I read books to become a better mother, a better housekeeper, a better Christian. I made lists and tackled goals. Life was moving along beautifully, or so I thought. Then one tragedy hit after another--the losses of my parents, and my marriage, debilitating health issues, the slow dwindling of my financial security until I was living on manna from heaven--life became very hard, and I felt all the time like I was barely keeping things together. I watched as my family moved from what I thought was "perfect" to what seemed to be barely functional. This was not what I had grown up expecting! This was not what I wanted, or what I thought God had planned for me.
I was reflecting on the beginning of the Christmas story today.
Oh what a precious promise,
Oh what a gift of love;
Joseph makes his choice to do
What few men would have done:
To take Mary as his bride,
When she's already carrying a child
That isn't his own.
Oh what a precious promise;
Mary and the child will have a home.