When Christmas Doesn't Go As Planned

The Tension of Tradition

During the Christmas season, perhaps more than any other time of year, tradition is highly valued. With good intention, going to the same places, doing the same things, and being with the same people are things many people cherish more than anything else.

For some, depending on the year, traditions well-kept make the Christmas season the best and most memorable time of year.

For others, a tradition broken (often including the missed presence of a loved one) can make Christmastime miserable. Plain and simple.

This presents the tension of tradition: How do we deal with Christmas when it doesn’t go as planned?

When that loved isn’t there- how are we supposed to feel? When we don’t receive what we expected- how do we react when it’s all said and done?

Perhaps there is another way to approach a Christmas that doesn’t go as planned than just throwing up our hands and tossing out the year in the name of bad luck.

A Story That Shatters the Norm

Interestingly enough, the Christmas story, including its many storylines, is full of examples of what has always been (traditions) being disrupted. Of course, I am not talking about Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun. The story I’m referring to is the one concerning the birth of Jesus Christ (a story that is much grander than just the birth scene).

Here is my attempt to summarize: Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, God used the voices of numerous prophets to proclaim a hope against all hope- that a savior would one day come. One day that savior came, born of a teenage virgin woman. The rumours that surrounded this newborn baby boy threw the local governments into complete turmoil. This boy (who is God, by the way) grows up and He announces a new way of life that is the best news for the outcasts of society, completely flipping upside down conventional wisdom of both religious and secular circles. He would eventually die, but would live again, and ascend into heaven, making possible life made new for all of humanity.


Back to our discussion; allow me the chance to ask a few rhetorical questions, from a posture of hopeful gentleness:

- What is normal about century-year-old prophecy coming to fruition?

- What is routine about a virgin birth?

- What is ‘the same every year’ about God taking on flesh and dwelling among us?

- When was the last time a newborn baby boy made the government tremble at the knees?

- How can we possibly get comfortable with the [now] inaugurated Kingdom of God?

I ask these questions to say this: To allow our joy to hinge on a Christmas going as planned, year after year, is to put ourselves at risk of moving farther away from the whole Christmas story, year after year.

If you already know that this Christmas is going to be different, consider what could happen if you approached it with hopeful positivity. Consider the Magi who let a suspicion of the meaning of a star become the journey of a lifetime.

Perhaps your local church, family, friends or workplace seems like it’s going to celebrate differently this year than it has in years past. Remember: it was in the unknown that God met Mary and Joseph in their dreams, and it was their willingness to obey and follow that resulted in moments of profound experience with the Living God.

There Will Always Be Hope in Christmas

One of the most significant things about the Christmas story is the announcement of the coming King Jesus, which I summarize in this way: “A new king is coming, and He wants to see everyone.” This is the hope in Christmas.

Are you lonely this Christmas? King Jesus wants to be with you.

Are you hiding from something this Christmas? King Jesus wants to meet you in your worry and shame.

There will always be hope in Christmas, but like the traveling Magi, we have to believe that it’s there, seek it, find it, and cherish it.

May your Christmas be special this year; not because everything went as planned or you were able to do everything you wanted.

May this Christmas be a memorable one because you left space for God to be present with you and allowed Him to do something new in your life.

~ Blessings to you and yours this Christmas ~