The holidays are my favorite time of year.
Thanksgiving makes me think of family, football, food, naps, movies, and shopping (not necessarily in that order!). Christmas makes me think of a warm hearth, traditions, closed stores, A Christmas Carol movies, Charlie Brown, family, hymns, carols, opening presents with my wife and kids, and celebrating the arrival of Jesus.
While the holidays bring out wonderful emotions, memories, and expectations for me, there are many who do not look forward to this time of year. My heart breaks for those who have had negative experiences throughout their lives during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe this time of year brings hurt instead of healing because of the loss of a loved one. You may prefer to just skip these festive months.
Holidays can present quite the conundrum. You might be thinking this very thing and yet you’re scheduled to host Thanksgiving dinner this year! Wherever you find yourself as we near the end of another year, I hope these four holiday survival guide tips spark some ideas for you and yours:
The temptation during this time of year is to attempt to make everyone happy. Trust that this is impossible and unhealthy. Comfort yourself by remembering that God is your first priority, your spouse and children are in second place, and your extended family must fall after them. Do what you need to ensure that your relationship with God grows, and that your immediate family is ministered to. With the overflow of what these first two relationships produce, meet your extended family with a loving open door.
I know of a mission organization that requires each missionary to go through what they call “Basecamp.” This time is set aside for training, preparation, and prayer to get the missionaries ready to serve on the field. While avoiding gossip and slander, consider using your church small group, Sunday school class, or life group as a Holiday Basecamp. Before the holidays hit, alert these brothers and sisters in Christ regarding what you are worried about. Inform them on how they can pray for you. Seek wise council from these godly men and women. Finally, call in backup in the midst of the Holiday gathering for prayer. Set up a group text that includes your closest friends or prayer partners that will be used to alert them to specific needs that you have in the moment.
View non-believing family as a mission field and see how that changes your holiday season.
Resist the temptation to use Basecamp and Backup as an excuse to slip into the sin of slander, gossip, or dishonoring your parents. The Scriptural command to honor your parents (Ephesians 6:2-3) does not go
away with age, and the Bible speaks clearly against slander (James 3:1-12). It is so easy for us to feel justified in slipping into a sinful version of venting about our family. Instead, try to use your basecamp/backup team to help protect you from these temptations.
Remember, the way in which you speak about your family members is often done in the presence of your kids. The way you speak about your parents and family members will likely be the way that they speak about you and others when they have a family of their own.
Whether you have great memories and emotions about the holidays, or you were given a messed-up version of what should have been, trust that God stands ready to redeem these days in your current context. The good news of Jesus provides hope in the midst of hard times. Imagine with me for a moment: How will your kids view this time of year because of what you allow God to do in your heart and in the hearts of those you love? What wonderful possibilities are ahead with Christ at the helm of your family gatherings? How could generations be impacted with the hope of Jesus because of decisions that you commit to the Lord? There is so much hope, so many traditions to start, and so many memories to be made!