Today was Family Christmas at my parents’ house in Jamesville. It means that anywhere from fifty to sixty (?) of us descend on a big white house in Jamesville, and for several loud and crazy hours, chaos reigns. Kids everywhere- under tables, behind furniture, lined up on the window seat in the bay window in the living room, or running through the crowd of adults in the kitchen.
We’re kind of like a scene out of My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, except that we’re not Greek. Not even close. But loud, enmeshed, and hilariously dysfunctional, yes. And then some.
It used to be that the few family members who were Christians would gather in the kitchen, and everyone else was in the family room, or the living room. Over the years, as more and more of the family has come to know Christ, the kitchen has become quite crowded, and now the few who are not yet Christians are the minority.
But, we’re crazy. I pulled my nephews’ girlfriend aside and said “Honey, walk around and look very carefully at these people. Think long and hard about this; you still have time to get out. And this isn’t even all of us- quite a few couldn’t make it!”
My brothers didn’t come with their families, which always makes me sad, and my daughter wasn’t there. Doubly sad, because this is her twenty-third birthday, but she spent the day with her father and his girlfriend. Some cousins didn’t make it.
This year was a difficult Christmas for us; a lot of stress, sadness and disappointment. My oldest daughter was sick, and we spent hours in the emergency room with her a couple of days before Christmas. Our tree died. All shopping was done at the very last minute the day before Christmas, because there was no money to buy gifts ahead of time.
The real gifts? Sleeping in the emergency room with my girls, overnight, on two small chairs, and watching my younger daughter take care of her older sister. Being together, even there. Getting medicine, ginger-ale, flowers, and all the necessary items required for feeling better when you feel deathly ill. Watching them open gifts Christmas morning, and knowing they were here, together, and both are okay. Seeing aunts, cousins, niece and nephews, and eating together, and knowing that in the end, this is what matters. These are the people who matter.
Some Christmases are truly horrible. But as we get older, the memories of the bad years blend in with all the other years, and it becomes part of your family story. “That was the year the tree died.” “That was the year we couldn’t buy gifts; or we were all sick, etc.” At least, that’s how I explained it to the girls. It’s okay that this year didn’t go well. Next year will probably be much better. 2014 is right around the corner, and all the potential is there for good things to happen; for more memories to be made, and even maybe a miracle or two. You never know. So much good could happen in the next twelve months. It would be a waste to miss the real gifts of this Christmas, which are the people we love, and the God we worship.
He has truly blessed us, every one.