Every year around this time I start to feel a little edgy. The continuous Christmas music and the retail push to get the perfect gift begin to grate on my nerves. And there is a low laying fear that I won’t get all the gifts bought, the cookies baked, the family Christmas letter written and the cards sent. There just isn’t enough time.
I end up having to chisel away at my expectations. This works pretty well until I run into one of those friends who hands you a tin of assorted cookies as she tells you about how she finished her Christmas shopping months ago. I start to feel as if I need to reassess. I try to figure out how to get it all done in the five days I have left.
But it doesn’t take long for reality to kick in. I end up conceding that I like eating Christmas cookies more than baking them. But it’s a bit harder to give up the Christmas letter and card. I’m a writer. I should be able to write 500 words about my family. But as soon as I sit down to write, I experience serious writer’s block. I have no idea what I want to say or how to say it. I don’t want to run through a list of accomplishment and family vacations like every other Christmas letter. It’s boring to read. Not to mention the fact that it doesn’t tell you anything or foster a real connectedness.
Perhaps that is the nature of the genre. Paint a pleasant picture of your family life in order to spread Christmas cheer. But I think that completely misses the point.
We have Christmas because our lives were far from perfect. God sent His only son to live among us and to experience everything that we experience so that he could rescue us from our sins:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 2:17-18 (ESV)
Christ didn’t ignore the trials and tribulations of human life. Neither should we. Sharing our challenges as well as our triumphs is the perfect way to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Because without Him the ways we fall short would define us far more than our accomplishments.
But as I write this I feel some personal resistance. I don’t want to be that one person who airs all the dirty laundry in the Christmas letter. I’d rather say nothing. But it empowers me when other writers write about their lives honestly. I don’t feel as alone in my own struggles. And at Christmas time there are a lot of people who need encouragement.
So this year I’ve decided to give the family Christmas letter another go, but it won’t be the same ole letter. This time I’ll write about the how hard it has been to re-establish myself after relocating and how much I miss my friends and church back in Naperville. I’ll also share the triumph of completing my thesis and receiving a Master in Fine Arts. I’ll touch on the ebb and flow marriage as well as trials and triumphs of mothering young adults. But the most important thing I will write about is how grateful I am this Christmas season for the gift of Jesus Christ. I would have never made it through this year without Him.