There’s no crying on Christmas!

Yesterday I went to a children’s Christmas service at my church. Our children’s pastor did a great job of allowing kids to be kids. In fact, she started by telling all the adults to “sit back and relax, don’t be bothered by the noise, these are kids after all!” Wonderful.

The first song we sang was “Silent Night”. Oh the irony.

After a wonderful admonition to relax and let the chaos commence, we sang about how Christmas night must have been a picture of angelic silence and calm. The type that all parents can crave. My favourite line is this, “the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”. Even the writer of this carol, all those years ago, was carrying the burden of the idealised Christmas.

Christmas is my favourite holiday. I love absolutely everything about it. The baking, cooking, gift giving, carol singing, decorating, friend inviting, exhaustion inducing glory of it all. But, with a holiday of this magnitude comes massive expectations on us and on our children.

Lets be honest. Kid’s here is your real Christmas list:

Guests are invited… behave!
Gifts are given… be thankful!
Memories are being made… treasure every moment!
Pictures are being taken… smile and look your best!
Mom is working hard… tell her you notice!
Jesus is the reason for the season… have a profound grasp of this!

Somehow, we wish some memo was sent deep into our children’s brains that told them, “It’s Christmas! Be perfect! Make memories! Enjoy every moment! Be thankful!”

Here’s the thing, with this holiday comes an even higher chance of none of the above happening. The chaos, change in routine, intense time together as a family all increases the chances of less than memorable moments. Even without this, our children’s ability to be less than “ideal” does not magically decrease at Christmas time (let’s be honest, it’s true for parents too).

No matter what the song tells us, even Jesus cried on Christmas.

So, today and tomorrow, don’t forget that your kids aren’t better than Jesus. When they open that present and say, “I wish it was blue!” don’t let it ruin your day. When the guests arrive and an epic tantrum ensues, don’t let it devastate. When a checked-out teenager doesn’t want to be bothered with visiting family, have grace.

Yes, it’s Christmas and we would all just love “one day of everyone getting along and behaving for the Love of God!!”

When the Christmas moments are less than glorious, just smile and say, “Even Jesus cried on Christmas!”

Photo Credit: Acrobat

Waiting and Dwelling in a Digital Age

Waiting & Dwelling

We are in a time collective hand-wringing over our digital addictions, vices and escapism. Whether a follower of Jesus or not, this is an age where one and all is wondering the effect of our romance turned co-dependency on a digital device. What effect is this having on our marriages? What does this do to our children and parenting? Are we literally altering our brains in ways that are a very real and present danger?

Putting guilt and condemnation aside, this season of Advent is the perfect time assess my place in this digital journey.

Advent is a Season of Waiting

Advent is a season of waiting, anticipating, expecting. Seasons of waiting are pregnant with possibility to dive deeper into our relationship with God and others. More than ever, our times of waiting are filled with the temptation to distract ourselves into our phones, i-pads or other devices.

Not all of our distractions are useless. In fact, “waiting” can become small gaps of time to fill up with “useful activities”. It is common to hear Christians say we need to “redeem the time”. So instead of waiting quietly at a doctors office, you can “redeem the time” by writing an important e-mail or listening to a podcast to learn something new.

The undercurrent is that simple, quiet waiting is wasted time.

The truth is that God repeatedly extols the virtue of simple waiting even when it has no clear- marked goal in sight. Mary and Elisabeth both waited. One for a long-desired birth. The other during an expected birth. Both waited for the coming of the Messiah.

What would happen if you embrace times of waiting instead of distract yourself from it?

Advent is a Season of Dwelling

Advent is also a time of reflecting on the incarnation, when God literally dwells with man. The magnitude of this event on our own lives is rarely understood. We accept that God became flesh all the while trying to escape our own fleshly living. We live in an age when dwelling in the flesh is the antithesis of our normal lives.

Skye Jethani reflected on this,

We may have no problem celebrating Jesus’ incarnation during this season, but we have great difficulty accepting our own. We live in an age that is in active denial of our bodies. Digital technology, for example, offers us the illusion of divine omnipresence. Through our devices we are no longer limited to our physical location. Any given day we may offer more of our attention to people and events on the other side of the planet than to what is happening in our own homes. Christ may have come to “dwell with us” but we prefer to dwell with the people on our phones.

Waiting and Dwelling

And so this season is both a time of waiting and a time of dwelling. Two things that digital devices cannot help us with. They are good for so much but in waiting and dwelling they hinder.

What would it look like for you to embrace quiet waiting and physical dwelling as you head in to Christmas? What practical steps could you take to avoid diving into digital distractions? How could you be more physically present in the location God has placed you each and every day?

Waiting and dwelling, may this advent season find you doing more of both.

Photo Credit: Joe Hunt

Choosing Christmas

Recently I overheard a mother at school saying, “This year I’m not giving in to a frantic and busy Christmas. I’m going to relax and put my feet up!” This is something many of us have probably said at one time or another but it was unique because I live in South Africa. I smiled and thought to myself, “Your ‘busy’ is an American’s ‘relaxed’”.

Seriously, as an American spending Christmas in South Africa, I love the relaxed and family feel of the Christmas season here.

We are in the Southern Hemisphere where it is summer. So, our Christmas traditions involve camping, hiking, picking Strawberries and a whole lot of swimming. Our Christmas vacation photos look something more like this than Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”:





But really, we can all have a relaxed and relationship orientated Christmas no matter what hemisphere we live in. We have to choose it yet we don’t. In the news, on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else I see a repeated theme; a desire to rid ourselves of a consumer based and frantic Christmas.

Here are some thoughts to consider as you head in to Christmas season wherever you find yourself:


“Christmas is just so busy”

Christmas comes with expectations for the food, parties, gift buying, making memories, taking pictures, traveling far and wide… the list goes on. The reality: this is self-driven. There is no secret Christmas monster that is making you do this under threat of bodily dismemberment. We will be driven by the expectations that we deem important and give power to. Busy-ness is a choice. I choose to be busy, no one makes me be busy.

Someone once said,

“…the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection.”

Our choice to be frantic and busy in front of God, our children and the whole world to see only reveals our own betrayal of what is truly valuable.


“Family dynamics are so complicated”

Yes, this is true. There are in-laws and out-laws and everything in between. Christmas comes with expectations and that’s what makes normal family relationships suddenly a lot more dramatic and complicated this time of year.

Here is a deeper truth. What really makes it more complicated and dramatic for us is our own participation in the drama. We can’t make all the drama go away but we can choose to not engage. It seems, though, that we see ourselves as victims of the drama instead of adults with the power of choice.

A few years back a friend asked me, “How can I make Christmas day work? I have to get my family to 4 parties that day… any ideas?”. I did happen to have an idea: “Choose 1 or 2 and skip the rest!”. “But people will be so upset with us!”, she replied.

Well, that is only a drama if you choose to engage with it… if you don’t, you will have a lovely day!


“Christmas has been taken over by consumerism”

It is a marvel to me that everyone complains about this but yet doesn’t do anything about it in their own home. Authors make a lot of money writing about how they “took back Christmas”. This is amazing! It is so astounding to us that people would choose to buy less gifts that we will read a whole book about it like we are reading about an alien invasion.

Yes, our children spend more time writing Christmas lists than learning about the greatest gift. Is this their doing or ours?

If we truly believe that we are not defined by the things we own then it will not be an issue to own less. If we truly believe that our children will find their deepest joy in Jesus, as opposed to the latest toy, on Christmas morning then it will provide no anxiety what-so-ever to choose to buy less gifts at Christmas. The problem, I think, is what we truly believe is not what we profess we believe.

This Christmas, choose to make it a great one. One free of busy-ness, drama and consumerism.

I really do believe it is the most wonderful time of the year… so from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!