Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Avoid the Immaculate Deception This Christmas

Before Thanksgiving Alice was already planning for Christmas. Yes, she put her usual passion into the food planning, preparation and family inviting for turkey day but she also made time to start her Christmas checklist and knock a few of those tasks off as well.

And now that the first round of food and football are over she is going full steam ahead to make Christmas as wonderful as it always is. There are gifts to buy of course, but the house decorating has always been an obsession with her so the attic and garage have been cleared of their Christmas decorations and she is on her way to turning her house into a fantasy land.

Granted her oldest will be home soon from college and her parents are getting up in years. She hopes to spend some quality time with all of them and even invite a few close friends over but all that will need to wait until she has things just right.

Alice is encouraged, however, because she did get up early on Black Friday and buy some of the gifts she knows her family will treasure and she saved some money this year in the process. And she knows that with a few late nights (OK, maybe a lot of them) she will also get her Christmas cards signed and sent out. This year's cards, more like booklets, are the best and most creative ever with lots of pictures and updates on the kids successes and family milestones.

Is Alice a version of  you at holiday time? She certainly represents a lot of people who are caught in what I call the Immaculate Deception. It's the false belief that certain expectations must be met every year at the holidays. And as a result many individuals and families miss out on the most important opportunities of a time like Christmas.

Some common misguided demands?  That everything be perfect. The house, the cards, the meals, the outfits, the church service, the time spent with family - they must all be refined to a standard that in reality can never be reached. As a result family members (often mom) never sit down, can't relax and miss out on the many spontaneous and casual conversations, interactions and special moments that they will never quite have again.

Second, that everyone be happy. Yes, holidays are a time when we should be happy and joyful but there is no way to please everyone . . . and yet we often try. We have to get Uncle Ralph the perfect gift and send Grandma Mary a card on time. Our kids need to get every gift they asked for and be allowed and even transported to attend every gathering required of them. Even Jesus didn't go to everything or give everyone what they wanted so why should we?

Third, we do more than in the past. If last year's Christmas card was really creative, then this year's must be more so. If we bought such and such last year for a present we should do better this year. We at least think that everything we've done before should be equaled if not improved. Says who?

The sad part about buying into the deceptions that often surround our holidays is that we miss out on what really matters. Let me suggest a few things:

Jesus. Yes, Jesus as the saying goes IS the reason for the season. I get it when non-Christ-followers don't focus on Jesus much but I don't get it when Christians pretty much avoid Him other than going to a Christmas Eve service. Try making Jesus the focus of your holiday and see what changes. Re-teach the real story of Christmas and tell about some of the things you are most thankful for from God.

Close family time. Notice the word close. Sure families are generally together during at least some of the Christmas vacation but are they close?  Do they really talk? Do they slow down and just enjoy each other, perhaps even get to know each other better?  When we're running, running, running there will be little time for each other.

Spontaneous get togethers with friends, neighbors, relatives or associates.  What would our holidays be like if we took time to just grab a friend and go have coffee (egg nog latte)? What if we did something really unique with our family or in the neighborhood, something WAY out of the box that we would never forget instead of the usual? What if we just enjoyed the tree that we put up, played some games, listened to music or watch a favorite Christmas special without having to fit it in between events or responsibilities?

You know there is still time to make this year's Christmas different. But you'll have to make some decisions NOT to do a few things pretty soon. Nevertheless try it. Remember all that other stuff may just be taking you away from the best Christmas ever and from the Jesus who started it all in the first place.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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