Did you get our Christmas letter this year?
No? That’s OK… we didn’t send one. However, we got a good chuckle from one or two who did. You know, the ones that make you wonder if sometimes we need to gush to convince ourselves that this year really DID rock, and not just rocked, but rocked over and beyond the definition of ‘rocked.’
And that’s OK! Really, no one wants to get a Christmas letter that says “Well, we made it to another Christmas season even though we foreclosed on our house, lost our job, our marriage is slowly deteriorating, my kids got F’s in school, and I am so SO irritated with life… yada yada… But Merry Christmas! Yeah!”
I mean, who would want to read that? So some of us spend lots of time and money and strained facial muscles to smile and look all perfect for our picture, and we find the one good thing that kinda did happen in the year with our “bubbly just-perfect baby” and our “unusually genius son” and our “oh we shouldn’t say this because we are humble Olympian child” and our terrific new line of work or promotion or retirement or huge vacation, and our millionth blissful year of marriage/relationship… and we stick it in a letter that’s as unnatural and sugary as fruitcake.
Sure, I used to do the same thing, too, 4 kids ago. I guess I just ran out of energy.
Oh, don’t get me wrong… I received some beautiful letters this year, bringing a smile and some warmth. They were laced with gratitude and truth. A few others decided to leave out the letter thing (count myself in there) when we don’t have time, or we would rather write a little personal note on every card (more my style), or our year was tough and we’re just happy to be alive… But others bordered on an assignment from third grade where we need to make something up that sounds cool (can you guess why I’m so familiar with that? 😉 And that’s OK! So long as you know I’m going to chuckle… especially when I KNOW what’s going on. I can see it in the twitch of your little son’s eye that 2 seconds before that picture you yelled at him to smile right. Oh yeah. You should see OUR photo shoots. Emphasis on the word “shoots”. Maybe you were crying when you wrote your letter. Maybe it’s therapeutic. Maybe some of us cave into the pressure of ‘happy and bright’… But we make it through.
To prove where I am at these days, I put our kid Christmas picture at the top of this blog for this month. Check out those (cute) kids’ faces. Some kids are scowling. Some kids are squinting. And that rusty truck about says it all. We laugh at ourselves, because life’s too short to pretend we even have a shiny vehicle or a shiny family. We seriously, just have fun. And besides, I think kids are cuter when they have real kid-looks on their face, like “WHEN is this over, Mom?!?!” and “Aaaagghhhh! Waaaaaa!” (The crying at the end there is from ME ;))
And as for OUR Christmas “letter”? For real? We’ve gone through some huge struggles. Days when I didn’t think I could go on. Tough school decisions. Tough family decisions. Tough new roads before us… And we are still here, still together, still living joyfully and victoriously as best we can. But we can’t credit ouselves with either the struggles or the joys. It’s all God’s grace, and we’re just the recipients… so there’s not all that much to brag about.
What is Christmas all about anyway? Everything “working out perfectly in man’s way”? I think not… It was messy. Unplanned (by humans). Not so squeaky clean… We’ve become so comfortable with the manger, that we think it’s normal. Try living on a farm. Would I give birth to my baby and lay him in one of our animals’ food troughs while I lay in sheep droppings? Would I freak out? We’re as comfortable with the manger as we are with the cross. But none of it is comfortable or tidy or nicely wrapped. It’s raw truth, raw love…
And God takes all the messiness, the things that don’t make sense or add up, the mysteries, the trials… He takes them and wraps them HIS way.
He wrote a Christmas letter, alright. And it wasn’t one bragging about how great He is. He simply said, and says, “I love you. I will die for you.”
And all we can do is respond in gratitude to Him, and in love for each other. That is our message for you, our loved ones: we are grateful for you, we love you, and we wish you, truly, the best God has to offer you and your family.
PS For a hilarious article on this subject, check out How to Write a Family Christmas Letter!