Christmas Without the Parents

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

We’re in the thick of it, now:  the Christmas season.

Kids are counting down the days to Christmas, the radio plays carols non-stop, stores hold sales, homes and businesses decorate with red and green and lights, and people throw parties. Don’t forget the parties.

Every year I think, I want to go to this special event or do this specific thing, and most years I manage to do very little from my “I want” list. Why? Life doesn’t stop. The every day things still must get done. I’m working. Bruce is working. The kids have homework and school activities. Family visits need to be figured out. The time flies away before you know it.

Is it any surprise with all of this hoopla that the stress of the holidays hits children who don’t live with their parents harder than most?

Victoria and Amari are not talking about it. Yet, I know they’re struggling. Amari has become whiny. He throws temper tantrums. Victoria has become harsh and speaks with an angry tone almost every time she opens her mouth. They are … what? Feeling abandoned? Angry? Upset? Sad? Disappointed? Jealous? Helpless?

Probably all of those feelings and then some. Their current behavior states loudly what they don’t know how to verbalize:  It’s Christmas, and I wish my parents lived with us. I wish my parents knew how to be parents. I wish my parents would stop doing drugs. I wish my parents were not in jail. I wish…

It’s a lot for a child to process. It’s a lot for ME to process. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Their mother confessed to me the other day that she’s depressed. This time around, I’ve not allowed her access to the children. She knows why. She misses her children.

It’s hard. It’s tough. She’s depressed because of it. So, she resorts to begging. She claims her children can’t be better off without her. That they need her as much as she needs them. I do believe they need a mother, but I don’t believe she’s the person they need. They need a real mother, not one who can’t do the things parents should do. She doesn’t understand this.

To counter this, she asked me if they ask to talk to her, and I told her the truth. No. Should I have told her that? Part of me thinks she needs to understand the consequences of her actions. Part of me worries that she’ll take this and fall deeper into depression. I don’t know whether I did the right thing or not, but I told her the truth.

The grands do, occasionally, bring up a memory about Mommy, but it’s happening less and less. They don’t ask to write, visit, or call her. They know where she is. They know, in the past, they have talked to her on the phone and visited her in jail, yet they don’t ask.

As I read back over this, I realize this sounds depressing. Yes, things are tough emotionally for the grands. Yes, we would prefer a different set of circumstances. Yes, I’m saddened that my daughter has chosen this road.

But…

This season, of all seasons, reminds us that there is something better to live for. Christ did come to save us. He offers a love that is light years beyond any love my husband and I can offer our grandchildren. It’s boundless. It’s new every morning. It’s in the promise of a child born in a manger.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I John 4:9-10

So, we talk about what Christmas is. We line up a few activities, but not a lot of them. We decorate. We have an Elf on the Shelf (whom Amari carried on a long, catching-up conversation with when he arrived). We spend time focused on Christ’s birth. We focus on family. We laugh. We find joy in the season.

As you go through this month, it is my hope that you will slow down and avoid the trap of over scheduling yourself and your family. Not everything has to get done. What you do need are the special times spent with your family. Many people struggle during this time of year, not just children who don’t live with their parents. Reach out to them. Use your time to bless them and show them the love of Christ. Take the time to enjoy each other and the blessings of a child born in a manger over two thousand years ago.

Find a way to make joy in your world.

 

 

A Celebration of Christ’s Birth

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A hushed anticipation of Christ’s birth settled over the sanctuary as we entered.  The stained glass windows appeared muted without the day’s sunlight to shine through them.  The lanterns hanging from the rafters cast a diffused glow over the assemblage, not quite illuminating the entire room.  The majesty of the moment held me in transfixed anticipation.

Soon, the chords of the first Christmas hymn rang forth
(select each song to share in this experience):

O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel...

Midst the reading of the story of Christ’s birth, we sang the songs related to each part of His coming:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7

Away in a Manger,
no crib for a bed…

O Little Town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-14

The first noel, the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields way they lay…
(Be sure to click play with this link)

Hark the herald, angels sing
Glory to the newborn king…

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Matthew 2:1-12

Joy to the world, the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her king!

And finally, as the joy and reverence and awe crescendoed in the night, ushers turned down the sanctuary lights, leaving the minister at the front of the church holding one lit candle representing Christ who came to be the Light of the world.  Two ushers came forth and each drew light from the one, and row by row, Christ’s light passed from person to person.  From candle to candle.

The beauty of the candlelight drew us deeper in the reverence and awe of the birth of  Christ.  We sang:

Silent night, Holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round you virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

We sang all of the verses, the glow of the candle flames dancing in the breath of our hymn.

At the end, the minister told us to:  “Go in peace and spread the great tidings that Jesus Christ was born.”

We exited, a profound hush settled over us.

This is how I spent my Christmas Eve’s as a child.  The candlelight service at my church grounded me in the truth of the season.  For a time, I forgot Santa Claus and the gifts under the tree.  The holiness of this service held me in its splendor well into the evening.

 

As you go into the night, remember:

Peace on earth and great joy to men!

Christ is born!

Note:  I Do NOT own the copyrights to any of these songs.
Thank you to all who have posted links to these beloved hymns.
Please support their work.

If you only watch one clip, watch the one for The First Noel.

Apologies for any ads that appear in the video links.
I tried to use links without them.

Houses Divided at Christmas

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many people suffer from depression during the Christmas season. Some are experiencing their first Christmas after a loved one has died. Others worry about the family dynamic on Christmas day–Will Uncle Ralph pick a fight?  Will Cousin Sarah get drunk? For others, the limitations of getting everyone together can create stress and disappointment.

Anyone who’s divorced with children knows the heartache of Christmas. Where will the children be? How do we divide up the time? As the children grow up, marry, and start their own families, it becomes even harder. Which family will they spend Christmas with? Who will we have to leave out? Add to this married children of divorce who have married a child of divorce, and the problem is staggering.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three… Luke 12:51-52

Even though these verses don’t refer to this specific situation, this is another example of why divorce is not God’s plan. We are facing it, ourselves. After many years of Christmases with most of our family gathered together, we’ve hit an interesting crossroads. One child is saving her money to come home for a wedding in April, instead. The others are headed to various family members’ homes, just not ours. Aging parents can’t make the trip.

I know Christmas is not about who is where. It’s about the birth of Christ, and the world’s awareness of God’s gift of salvation. It’s a time of blessings.

But it’s also a time when families gather together.

So, we will be trying out new traditions this year. New ways of approaching the day. On the plus side, we won’t have to rush to get dressed and get the turkey in the oven before family arrives. We can take it slower. And we will see most everyone over the next week. We get a prolonged Christmas.

Someone you know is facing a Christmas alone or separated from loved ones. Reach out to them, share with them your lives, and, most importantly, share the story of Jesus and the hope he brings.