When the last goodnight had been said last year on Christmas, I knew that normalcy had subsided in terms of holidays and that our family was headed into a new normal. When Brooke and Alex tied the knot in January, we knew life would change – in many ways for good.
But you can’t prepare for change, because that’s just the nature of it. It’s different, transitional, unexpected.
This year marks the first time Brooke and I didn’t open either a pair of pajamas or one of our favorite Disney movies on DVD on Christmas Eve, after going to church then out to dinner with our family. Instead, we went to church with Brooke’s in-laws (and took up an entire pew with our family for once, which was cozy) and had a delicious lasagna dinner at their home. Then we left Brooke there and came home (with Grandma, because she’s visiting this week), where I opened slippers with three of my favorite adults.
Dickens’ most famous character spent his first 50-odd Christmases the same way, too – no different than any other day. He didn’t start the day with whispers and giggles with a sister in the dark, waiting until parents summoned and lead down the stairs without allowing us to see the tree with the new, unwrapped gifts from Santa. I’m sure he worked, planned who to evict the next day, used as little coal as possible, grumbled about his staff taking the day off, and ate gruel for supper.
The night three ghosts visited his him was met with initial gruffness.
I stayed pretty gruff about having to share my sister with another family (she is pretty great, you can’t blame them for wanting to see her and their son) for quite some time.
But as Scrooge began to understand the amazing transformative power that a change in perspective and heart can have, he warmed up to not only Christmas but mankind. He rejoiced in finding that he hadn’t missed the holiday and began generous habits toward his fellow humans.
I love the kind spirit of Christmas, giving individualized gifts to every person in my life, the twinkling lights, the hope of a Savior who meets broken people in the middle of the mess, the candles, the twice-baked potatoes.
I had loved the way we spent Christmas before, the stockings opened one at a time in front of both the yule log and the fireplace (side by side so you aren’t sure which one is actually generating heat and which is just the TV), spending the whole morning with our cozy little foursome, hot cups of coffee, wassail, or Russian tea, a special, carby breakfast, and opening presents, an orderly ordeal where Brooke bags up all the wrapping as it is taken off, distributes presents until the tree is barren, and makes sure we all open one-at-a-time and in order.
I had loved the sweetness and closeness of it, and how our family would often have friends who didn’t have family in town over for Christmas dinner.
But now it’s time for me, like Scrooge, to keep Christmas in a new way, a more open way. Our whole family, actually. We’ve got to learn to share, because marriage isn’t just about compromise between two people.
And Christmas isn’t about sameness. It isn’t about doing the same thing over and over again. It’s about a God who knows that sameness brings stagnation and that a radical intervention is always the way to shake things up.
May we all branch out from the comfort of our routines in this next year. May we see opportunities to draw closer to God and to each other. May we seek out the new and good, living out the spirit of Christmas all year.