The Christmas season is upon us. Its all lights, and jingle bells, and presents, and laughing around a fire, right? Except, honestly, this is rarely the case. While the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas do hold a special sort of emotional magic for many of us, heading back home can leave us wondering where all these nostalgic feelings are coming from! When the sin of our present, meets the brokenness of our past, meets the reality of family and friends in need of love and encouragement, meets our own fleshly desires to partake in the consumerism of the world; we are often left realizing the “most wonderful time of the year” can be a fleeting idea.
For many young women, heading home can be simultaneously one of the most life-giving, yet discouraging times of the year. For me, it always seems my time at home causes me to revert back to the Annie who didn’t know or love Jesus, have the Holy Spirit indwelling her, or even particularly consider others very often. It always seems more challenging to meet in fellowship with the Lord through His word when I am at home. I am often unbelievably less patient, more judgmental, and even lazy, as soon as I board the plane carrying me away from Dallas.
With the Advent season upon us, aren’t we supposed to be MORE like the Savior who’s coming we are celebrating? Shouldn’t we be LESS concerned with self, and more concerned with sharing Him with our family, friends, and the lost world? Isn’t it truly about Him and not us? The answer is, un-equivocally, YES! But, this is easier said than done.
So, here are a few practical tips for returning home for the Christmas holiday:
- Keep realistic expectations on yourself and others. – Your families are people, and people sin. You are a person, and people sin. We do not meet all of one another’s needs. We mess up, and even when we get it right a LOT (which we do more often when we know one another well, like our family), we can not and will not get it right every time. Expect to enjoy your family and friends, but not to have all of our earthly needs met by them.
- Repent to the Lord, and publically as often as is necessary and appropriate. – Along with right expectations, comes the necessity of repenting when you fall short. Do not be afraid to admit when you have sinned against those around you. Sometimes a simple, “Sis, I’m sorry. I was wrong to be so irritable earlier, and I hope you’ll forgive me for that? How can I help out at Grandma’s today?”, will go a long, long way to show your loved ones that you care. Also, it’s just plain obedient to God to confess our sin.
- Spend time with God in prayer and study of Scripture. Time alone is important when you are surrounded with people. Time to know God personally and intimately is necessity if you want to enjoy those He has created, and serve those He has called you to serve. Choose a book of the Bible, read a chapter a day, pray about what you read once you have read it over a few times. It can be as simple as that.
- Be more concerned with serving than being served. Whether it is receiving gifts, or sitting on the couch while your mom does the dishes. It is easy to fall some strange version of our 7 year old selves when we walk through that front door. Mark 10:45 says, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” Celebrate His coming by emulating His reason for doing just that.
- Believe the Gospel. The good news of Christ’s coming is one part of the gospel narrative. It’s HUGE that a loving God came to earth in a stable, and dwelt among the muck and mire of our reality. He GETS it. He KNOWS the challenges, and the joys. And yet, He never sinned. He lived that way for 33 years, and then He died for OUR sins. And then He proved his power over sin and death by rising again. And one day, the day we are waiting for, He will return! If you do not believe this daily, and hope in it, any day (not excluding days in December) will be found wanting and unfulfilling. If the theme of your life is not this, and it is just TOO hard every single time. It may be good to ask yourself if you have ever truly believed this. Because, when you truly do, it fills you with the Holy Spirit, the only true hope we have of accomplishing tips 1-4. Believe the Gospel, ladies. That’s the Reason for the Season, and it reason enough!