With Christmas less than two weeks away, our holiday preparations are entering their final stages. We are busy wrapping gifts, mailing the last of the Christmas cards, baking treats and goodies, and preparing our homes for the big day. For many of us that includes getting together with family members from both near and far. While this can be a great source of joy, in some circumstances it can become a source of dread. Childhood memories may be fond but as we grow and become independent adults, often our viewpoints and values take different paths. This can cause a lot of friction but with some careful thought and the preparation of our hearts, these difficulties can be overcome.
Pray ahead of time.
Pray for the days that you will be together. Ask others to pray. Pray that God would give you a heart like Jesus; a heart that loved and served and forgave and a heart of humility that understands that we humans are a broken and sinful lot. We all need grace! Pray also for the hearts and souls of everyone gathered (but not over the Christmas dinner!). Pray for unity of mind and spirit for all.
Set some boundaries.
If debating politics causes aggravation, agree to leave those discussions for another time. Remember, Christmas is a time of rejoicing and, for kids, making lots of happy memories and showing them what family is all about. If religious beliefs are vastly different, agree to disagree and let. it. go. People will be more impressed by your behavior than your words.
Focus on the positive.
One of the things that is so difficult about family gatherings is that family members know one another so very well. We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. In treating one another as we would like to be treated, is it possible to overlook another’s faults and focus on the things that you like about each other? What do you have in common? Focus on the things you both enjoy or find interesting. Smile and choose to be joyful.
If, despite your best efforts, the conversation turns towards things that cause conflict, show one another the respect that all human beings, especially family, deserve. Many a lively (yet respectful) conversation has been the cause of new understanding and changed hearts. Insults and put downs will only serve to alienate the other person from you and your ideas anyway. Is it all about being right? Or is there a bigger picture?
I would rather use caution in my conversations and overlook an insult than not spend time at all with family. Isn’t that a large part of what Christmas has become? We are celebrating the birth of our Savior, yes. The tradition of spending this special day with family is a large part of that experience. Sharing the joy of the season with family is a blessing. If we are going to insist on only spending time with those that think and feel exactly like us, there is a good chance that we will spend much of our lives, including the holidays, alone.
If you want a joyful celebration this Christmastime, it may take some care, but not only is it doable, it is totally worth it!
What tips do you have for making peace with your family this Christmas?