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It saddens my spirit and makes it heavy, contemplating the notion that God surely wouldn't want us to celebrate the earthly arrival of His only son in such a fashion. Humility, self-sacrifice and relentless love were the hallmarks of Jesus life, so how does this insane para-holiday behavior reflect such characteristics? And how do we get through this ugliness when we have little control over others?
The answer lays in part in the December 12, 2010 post on joy. First and foremost, boundaries have to be set. What's your tipping point for putting up with the bad behavior of others? Set clear lines on what you will and will not tolerate as far as comments or actions with your spouse or immediate family well before you get together with them. Be willing to be firm but gentle in enforcing those parameters with people during your gatherings. If it's important for you to spend Christmas morning or Christmas Eve with just your immediate family, then state such and don't yield to any pressures to do otherwise. In fact, it may be calmer to plan with your spouse or kids how you intend to spend the holidays in October or early November.
Second, realize that Christmas is NOT about you! There are many people other than yourself involved in the celebration. It doesn't always have to be your way. Resign yourself to a gathering that is going to be nothing like what you'd like it to be, but put a time limit on it. Once you've made your appearance and graciously acquiesced to another person's wishes, carve out what you'd like to have as your own special time. It always cracks me up to see how we get fixated on needing to have certain things done on certain days. There's definitely more than one day to celebrate! And did you realize that more than likely, Jesus wasn't even born around Christmas Day anyway?
Third, learn not to engage when tempers flare. The Book of Proverbs has at least 7 entries describing the foolishness of a hot-tempered person and the wisdom an even-tempered person. If another person tries to draw you into a tussle, explain, "You know, I think it would be better for all of us if we talked about this after the holidays." When you find another getting under your skin with offensive remarks or actions, let it slide off of you and just shake your head. Don't let the emotions control you or undermine your observation of the Savior's birth!
Finally, accept the fact that you're not always the easiest to live with either. Each person has their own foibles and shortcomings. If they didn't, Jesus would have had no need to launch His rescue mission to save humanity. I often joke with my husband, "We're lucky we have each other because no one would put up with either of us!" Viewing ourselves in a more humorous, self-deprecating way makes it a bit more manageable to "Love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34)
As Christmas comes to a crescendo, it is more important than ever that we fix our eyes and our temperaments on what really matters lest we miss the whole purpose of the celebration. Learning to cope with the inevitable conflict in gracious ways that imitate the Babe in a manger may be the best gift we could give all year!
PRAY: Jesus, help me to give others the grace You gave me when You came down to earth as a babe on Christmas. Help me to put out the fires of any conflict that may arise during the holidays by doing my part, staying calm and acting wisely.
~ Barb Dittrich