For me spending time with my family is a big part of what Christmas is all about. Whether it's cleaning the house together, playing games, visiting a carol service or getting presents ready, family time holds something special for me.
I think this has definitely grown since living away from home. There's something novel about being back with my family that I don't think I particularly appreciated when I was growing up. It's a chance to be able to be my crazy self with my equally insane family, who get me and who seem to love me for that.
I think I've been struck by how lucky I am to enjoy spending time with my family. Not everyone does. Working with young people I've been surprised at how many of them aren't especially looking forward to Christmas; whether it is the reality of broken, dysfunctional families, or the prospect of disappointment in the present department due to financial difficulty. Many of my kids were not excited at all.
I guess I am able to enjoy spending time with my family because I have spent years cultivating and investing in positive relationships with them. That isn't always the case with other families. I found it interesting to read this article published in Nov by the Evangelical Alliance - it talks about lots of research done about Christmas and concludes that the majority (67%) of adults think spending time with family is the most important thing at Christmas. One of the sad facts is that Jan 8th is the day when there are the most inquiries about divorce after the stress of Christmas.
Thinking about it Jesus was from a relatively dysfunctional family - his parents were the object of a scandal before he was even born. They didn't plan enough time to get to Bethlehem so they could get a room. I can bet there were arguments when it came to settling for a stable. After Jesus was born he and his family had to flee to a foreign country (Eygpt) so that King Herod couldn't kill Jesus, can't imagine things were all rosy for them as refugees. He had a number of siblings who no doubt had the usual fights growing up. Then later on when Jesus was 12 his parents managed to leave him in Jerusalem in the Temple and didn't realise until they had left the city, both thinking he was with the other parent. Bad communication. Later on his own family didn't agree or support his ministry showing people he was God's son. Harsh.
Jesus knew what families were like. They let us down, they don't always live up to expectations. Yet they were important enough for him to be born into one.
You may have realised I have started "tweeting" a bit more these days - I read a tweet on there today that I wanted to share:
"To avoid family rows this Christmas: give people a piece of your heart, not a piece of your mind."
also this one, "Christmas present suggestions:- To your enemy, forgiveness. To children, a good example. To yourself, respect. To everyone, love.
Both tweeted by Nicky Gumbel, founder of Alpha
I want to make the most of the time I have with my family; and I hope some of the above advice helps you if family isn't the easiest thing at Christmas.