An Unconventional Holiday
By Jasanna Czellar
Family: a group of people related to one another by blood or marriage.
Most people understand what a family is, and as believers, we also have the blessing of our church family who we are related to through the DNA of Jesus. We have DOUBLE the family! Although we may have a good understanding of what family is, I would venture to guess that we all feel differently about the term. Some of us grew up with great families, some of us not so much. Some knew their extended family well, some were an only child and distant from their relatives. Some have been adopted, fostered, expelled from their homes, widowed, married twice, and so many more variations that makes the definition of family different to each of us.
Bear with me for a quick account: There’s an unpleasant sensation I remember from childhood. When we used to go to the ocean, I would jump in and body surf the waves. Every once in a while, a wave would be a bit bigger than anticipated —causing me to tumble and shooting salt water up my nose and into my eyes, causing them to burn and leaving behind a horrible mouth-taste. Once I emerged, waterlogged, I was happy to once again breathe that fresh air, and I’d jump right back into the ocean to bodysurf.
We will no doubt encounter some type of conflict or tension and have to prayerfully seek wisdom from the Lord in how to navigate it best for His glory.
I think this year may be a bit like that, as we attend church and family gatherings around the holidays that may look a little different than in prior years. We may feel (if you’re like me) that we’ve been smacked around by the waves a this year. Within our families, there may be differences in opinion on health and our approaches to it, differences the size of canyons on our political stances and relationships that have become more distant over the past months. We will no doubt encounter some type of conflict or tension and have to prayerfully seek wisdom from the Lord in how to navigate it best for His glory. This may come from our blood relatives or from church family. It should be expected!
As believers and as humans, we were created for community (Genesis 1:27-28) and placed in a family, whether that’s by blood or church or both. What we didn’t get to decide is exactly who that family would be. Even if we chose a church, we didn’t know all the intricacies of the personalities we would come to know or the drama that comes with any group of relationships. Blood families can often have even more complexities. Still, how lonely would it be without any relationships and living on a deserted island with only iguanas for company? —some introverts and Iowans in the winter may disagree with me here. 🙂 —
Even through Jesus’ birth in Scripture, we see an example of challenging circumstances within a family.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18
And just like that, a seemingly calm relationship between Jesus’ parents was flipped on its head. They didn’t choose to have a baby that early. They definitely didn’t choose that it would be Jesus, a perfect child, who would eventually die an early death because so many despised him. Although we don’t know much about their parenting or family dynamics, I’m sure it can’t be completely different from other families today. There were still disagreements between parents and siblings. Feelings were still hurt through unkind words. Perhaps jealousy because of Jesus’ perfection was added to the mix. They still had to wrestle with how to love each other well. Pride still had to be fought and forgiveness sought. Along with every family full of relationships, there are always challenges!
Relationships are always messy, and even more during stressful life events. Still, God is intentional and has allowed us to be connected to these family members during this very season. Remembering that we have been given grace upon grace (John 1:16) will be one of our biggest tools to extend that grace in abundance to others as we enter the Holidays. Hebrews 12:14 says:
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Entering our family situations with humble hearts that have blanketed the season in prayer will give us the ability to be able to strive for peace with everyone.
This past year has again shown me my deep need for Jesus and I can imagine that many of those who don’t know Him are feeling despair, depression, anxiety and frustration. May we be ready and willing to show that steady and hopeful peace of Christ with those we call family, whether believers or unbelievers. Very likely, there will be hearts that are more receptive to the gospel now, than they would be at other times. Our relationships with them can be the bridge to provide real hope of a steady Savior, when the world seems to have spun out of control. Let us be prayerfully prepared!