It was Christmas 2012. It was awkward. Can I say that now, four years later? Is it too soon? Oh well. I’m saying it. For those who remember us, Rob and I were getting married that year, Dec. 29th. We weren’t married yet. There were still last minute details. There were some questions to be answered. There were houses to combine and condense. And there were families to unite. Unite the clans, Robert the Wootton! It is hard, to say the least, to make a stepfamily work. Any one who has been here knows this. As if the season isn’t busy enough, you add in even more schedules to accommodate and the planning can just about kill you, and whatever holiday spirit you have left. And a marriage means a whole new cast of characters to get to know, to buy gifts for, to consider when making plans and attend events. It gets messy and awkward and draining. And just for fun, we threw a wedding in there!
Family is so fun, isn’t it? You know, like those photo cards we get around this time of the year – perfect little cherubs with perfect little smiles and mostly perfect backgrounds and outfits and hairdos. It’s a snapshot of the family at its best. Because no one wants to see us at our worst. Not even us.
When you think of family, maybe you don’t think of all the warm fuzzies that Hallmark commercials market to us. Maybe your heart isn’t so light and full of glee when you think about your trip to Aunt So-and-So’s. Or maybe you aren’t going anywhere at all because family just isn’t what it was – maybe someone passed away, maybe someone got divorced, maybe one side isn’t speaking to another side any more. So everyone just stays home.
And then the kids. Well, IF there’s kids. Maybe this year your kids aren’t with you. Maybe you don’t have the much-longed for kids you thought would be on your Christmas cards by now. Maybe your heart is so empty and dark that the whole world just can’t hang enough lights to make a difference. You’d rather bang your head on the wall for an hour than go carolling. Or if you’re like me, you watch every sad movie you can find with a box or two of tissues and eat chocolate and ice cream for a week straight. (I mean I used to do that)
If Christmas is for those who need it most, then it HAS to be for the broken hearted. It has to be for the broken families, the ones that won’t be on a photo card this year or maybe ever again. God sees you. God made Christmas for you.
Christmas was made for a new kind of family. You read the Bible and see that God has a history of working through families – even the broken ones, well, especially the broken ones. He has a habit of taking what has been lost, broken, abused, cast out, ruined, and collecting them up in His arms, imparting to them a beauty and grace unparalleled, and putting them on display for the world to see. When we look for these kinds of “photos” we see glimpses of what God is doing in the world, in our world, and we begin to recognize that we don’t do a good enough job of looking in the dark places for the brightest lights. We want sweet, easy, comforts to replace awkward, heavy scenarios, but instead of ignoring them or brushing them aside, we need to look closer and through His eyes to see His handiwork, subtle but clear, silent but glorious. We can see awkward melt into appreciation and loneliness change into a quiet hope and joy for what God has in store. God is restoring your family, even now. Do you believe that? He is. But it may not be the family you think of first, or the one you thought you wanted. It’s much bigger and more beautiful than you can picture.
And I’ll add that this is why you MUST go to church on Christmas morning. What better way to remind us that THIS is why Jesus came in the first place. He came to bind up the broken, mend the hearts and souls of the lost, unite the family of God – all of us who believe and are adopted as sons and daughters of the King. He came to make a new family, a new life, a new bloodline – not one of common DNA strands, but one of the blood of himself, poured out in love and grace for his kin, his brothers!! What a thought. What a reason to worship together, to cross great distances, actual or metaphorical, to come together as one and exalt the Baby King.
This is the picture of the family. This is the photo snapshot, on a Sunday morning, taken by the Author of Grace who planted us together. He chose us and He sends us to each other to share in the family gatherings and celebrations and to be a city on a hill, a light for all the world to see the family as God intends. Even thicker than blood. And will last for all time.