Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And So THIS Is Christmas?

Copyright Sebastian Gauert via
"Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict."
(Proverbs 17:1, NLT)

"Peace will not come to our world unless it first comes to our hearts." ~ Stan Toler in ADVENT MOMENTS:  Preparing your Heart for the Coming King

Round about this time of year, I'm ready to turn off my cell phone, pull the land line out of the wall, delete all my e-mail messages and fly away to a remote island.  Why?  One word:  CONFLICT.  Sad to say, but it seems that the holidays bring out the wacky in everyone.  If it's not one person sharing their stress of getting everything done and majoring in the minor, then it's another close to me bringing up old grudges.  Besides the dysfunction that radiates from my own family of origin, I get friends and parents from across the country sharing their toxic stories as well.  This one is critical of what's being served for the Christmas meal.  That one's hurt about where you're going to spend the day.  This one is obsessed with something that took place years ago and can't let the holidays pass without mentioning it yet again.  That one makes snide remarks at every family gathering they attend.  Is it any wonder that police get more calls for domestic disputes during this time?

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 joyFirst 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


  1. Thank you for this post! It's a great reminder, and I needed it today.

    Now, I'm going to add your blog to my Google Reader!

    Merry Christmas!


  2. Reading this makes me so thankful for my family. We have none of this - every Christmas Eve we rotate houses with over 30 guests and everyone gathers, it is the most beautiful night of the year. For us Christmas Eve is sacred, not for the religious aspect (and you are absolutely correct it is more than likely that Jesus was born in May) but because it is the one day of the year that the world stops, the everyday stresses and drama are put on the back burner and horrible voices are singing Christmas carols with hugs and smiles. Christmas Day is reserved for the "in-laws" in our families and should they choose to bring drama to the day so be it, it is their loss. I never understood how other families could be so hurtful towards each other and allow their families to be torn apart. But I have to say that reading your post did remind me with all the cleaning, preparing and hosting both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year to remember what is important and not get fixated on having the perfect table or perfectly decorated home. Thanks for the post - I will definitely remember to BREATHE!

  3. Wow, Marianne! You are truly blessed!!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Making Room said...
    Barb, your blog article reflects some of the steps we used to talk about when I worked in the field of biblical conflict management (P.R.A.Y.):
    1. P-prioritize what's important from God's perspective (and at Christmas it would be JESUS!).
    2. R-remove the log from YOUR eye. The only person you can change is you, and chances are you probably have contributed to the conflict so reflect on what you've said/done.
    3. A-approach the other person to talk about the conflict only after you've went through the first two steps (P and R) because only then will you have the right attitude to resolve the conflict.
    4. Y-yearn to be reconciled. The bottom line in biblical conflict resolution is that we try to be reconciled in a way that honors God.
    Your post definitely covers these ideas. Thank you so much for the reminder.

  5. Thanks, Mike! GREAT insights & acrostic!!!

  6. What a great reminder! Thank you!