I’ll never forget the first Christmas holiday Kory and I spent together as newlyweds. Because it wasn’t just a Christmas holi”day.” It was more like a Christmas marathon. Two weeks almost of parties, family get-togethers, outings, and church activities, all strung together like the lights on our first Christmas tree. (Which wasn’t pre-lit, by the way. Oh how far we’ve come!) We crisscrossed the metropolitan area we live in day-after-day, logging more miles in our car than our neighborhood FedEx delivery man. All in an effort to make appearances everywhere we were invited.
After a late night filled with Christmas Eve worship services at the church where Kory served on the youth ministry team, and a celebration with my extended family, we were tired. And we were scrambling to get to his Aunt Nancy’s house on time for Christmas lunch with his extended family. The last (but certainly not least) of no less than 10 celebrations. All with people we love. Tempers were wearing thin as we made our list and checked it twice, loading present after present into the car. And then I realized the unthinkable. On our first Christmas together as a married couple, I had forgotten to buy a Christmas gift for someone in his family.
Yikes. This could not be good.
Kory has often joked about the fact that he knows just what to say. And just when to say it. And I’m fairly certain this bit of self-reflection stems from this very early memory in our marriage. Or possibly, it refers back to the time he told me I didn’t fold his socks right, and he tried to give me a lesson about the proper technique, taught to him by his mom. (He had so much to learn back then, my Dad would say. And guess who spent a few years doing his own laundry?) Either way, while I don’t remember exactly what Kory said fifteen years later, I remember that my feelings were hurt.
I was already mortified. Embarrassed. And scared. (Oh, and mad, by the way. Before the sarcasm. At myself for forgetting. And at Kory for not doing it himself. Which wasn’t fair because I never asked for his help. So admittedly, I too, had so much to learn back then.). The mixed bag of emotions, paired with my sleep-deprived state, took their toll. So I walked out the front door of our first home, and I did something that I’ve been known to do over the years to “get the last word.”
I slammed the door.
With the strength of an NFL football player. And the self-control of an angry child.
It felt so good.
In fact, I was rather pleased.
“I showed him,” I thought to myself with a smug look on my face as I walked down the front steps to our driveway.
And then it all came crashing down on me.
As I headed for the 1990 Mercury Cougar we were driving at the time, I began to hear the cracking and popping of shattering glass behind me.
And then, time stopped. Things began to move in slow motion. And I froze.
With my back to the front door (to afraid to look), I stood still as the window pane of our front door shattered from top to bottom. And like a scene from a Hollywood movie, the consequences of my immaturity climaxed when the entire sheet of glass came crashing down onto our front porch.
Yes, friends. Yes, it did.
Slowly, I turned around. And there Kory stood. On the other side of our front door. Which now sported a 3×5 hole.
Yeah — I showed him something alright. (That I’m an idiot.)
I fell into a heap on our driveway as the tears came. And before I knew it, I was knee-deep in the ugly cry. In broad daylight. On Christmas morning. For all my neighbors to see.
Kory didn’t say a word. (Which was a good thing given that his most recent weren’t his finest.) Instead, he turned around, went to the kitchen, got a broom and dustpan, and began to clean up the mess.
I’m sure he was thinking he’d married a lunatic.
I know I was.
So we trash bagged and duck taped our front door.
Said what we needed to say to each other.
Then we got in the car and began the drive to Aunt Nancy’s house. Exhausted. Without the gift we needed. And now towing the added burden of an inevitable $500 front door repair in our very near future. On the salary of a youth minister and the shoestring budget of a law student, this was devastating.
This was also not the way we envisioned spending our first Christmas together as a married couple. In fact, it fell radically short of our hopes and dreams and seemed to be void of the “Christmas magic” both of us recalled from our childhood.
What went wrong?
Over the years, we learned to adapt as a couple. To better blend our family traditions together and to create some new ones of our own. And we’ve shared some wonderful memories these last fifteen years. But every year at Christmas, we revisit the persistent undercurrent of tension that exists between what Christmas means to us as Christians and what it has become as a result of the consumer-driven culture we live in.
So this year, Kory has decided to tackle this issue with our church family during his Advent sermon series that is premised on the book, The Advent Conspiracy. And as a family? We’ve decided to take A Christmas Break. A Vacation from the Chaos and Consumerism that dominate the Christmas scene and distract us from the true meaning of the celebration. This year, we’re determined to center all of our festivities on the manger.
On the birth of the One who came to save the world.
The One who brings light into darkness.
The One who brings healing to the broken.
And the One who brings love to all.
But we’re not throwing the baby out with the bath water because we love so many of the American Christmas traditions we’ve shared with our family and friends over the years. Santa will still have a place in our celebration, and our Elf On The Shelf (lovingly referred to as “Fly”) will still head south for the winter, but with a new twist this year. Our kids will still receive gifts. We’ll still Deck The Halls. And we’ll still Fa la la la la while we trim our 12 foot pre-lit tree.
We’re going to search for Jesus in all of these places, and we’re hoping to find Him in some new places too.
This year we’re going to worship more fully.
We’re going to spend less and give more. All at the same time.
And we’re going to intentionally show love to our neighbors. Both near and far. With our time, our treasure, our service, and our prayers.
Because isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Over the next four weeks, we’re going to share our journey with you, our readers and our friends. And I suppose that’s a gesture of trust. Because we’re an ordinary family. Not too different from yours, I’m sure. And we don’t pretend to have all of this figured out. Like any journey, this one has a beginning, and that’s precisely where we are. What we do know, though, is that we want Christmas to look a little different for our family. And maybe, because of the changes we’re going to make, it will be different for someone else too. We want Christmas to be a time to live beyond ourselves in significant ways. A time to step out of our comfort zones. A time to embrace the needs of the broken world in which we live. And a time to become catalysts for the change it needs.
So with humility and enthusiasm, I invite you along for the journey. I invite you to read our stories with the hope that they might inspire some of your own. And I invite you to conspire along with us to make this the very best Christmas ever.
Will you join us? And please. Invite your friends along for the ride!