Well, it’s that time of year again. Jingle bells and white peppermint mochas at Starbucks; big guys in red suits and white beards running around town; long lines at the mall with great deals on everything from socks to fruit cake to tickle me Elmo. It’s a great time of the year, it’s actually it’s my favorite time of year. There’s snow, great music, ABC Family’s countdown to Christmas, people baking and covering their kitchens with cooling racks and cookie sheets. The house is all decorated and warm feeling – holiday traditions are in full swing. But, the best part of this year of Christmas for me is family and spending time with family.
My favorite Christmas memories are being out of school and my mom baking all kinds of stuff from sugar cookies to fudge (and there better be fudge she forgot one year and oh man!). My dad would be outside hanging lights, usually threatening not to decorate next year even though we all know deep down he really enjoys it; I think there’s a little Clark Grizzwald in him just waiting to bust out all the lights! My sister usually had some event going on and she was buzzing around with friends as well as harassing my Dad that he’s not putting up enough lights, and the words “your face” is usually thrown back and forth, all in good fun of course! What it comes down to, though, is that we were together doing these silly traditions. It’s the time of the year we get to spend the most time together and that’s what truly matters – family and the family that God has blessed us with.
Now that we are older, married and moved out of the house we are not home together as a nuclear family as much anymore. That makes this time of the year even more special because we have more family to join in with. I remember the first Christmas I spent with my wife Lana’s family in Lincoln, Nebraska. I have to say, I was a little sad at first and a little homesick for my own family and my traditions. But, once we got there and the festivities started all I could say was, “Wow!” God really opened my eyes to what the church family is. I was a little unsure at first, but Lana’s family welcomed me in and the McCracken/Nettleton Christmas was a weeklong event! They are a very large family – three times the size that I was used to – and it was a whooping good time! The best part of it all was family, and not just McCracken/Nettleton family, but the body of Christ family. Even though I was hundreds of miles away from my own family, I really wasn’t because of Christ holding us all together in Him.
Ever since that first Christmas away from my childhood home, I have looked at this time of year differently. It’s the whole church family coming together to celebrate with one another for our Savior, who made this all possible and who holds all of us together in Him. That’s so amazing! We actually have family all over the globe in Christ and no matter where we go at this time of the year there is a brother or sister in Christ ready to welcome us in. It may seem different at first, but once you arrive there’s a mom baking, a dad putting up lights, and a sister buzzing around. And if you’re at the McCracken/Nettleton’s there’s a crazy uncle throwing something at you or getting you to do something completely ridiculous!
This Christmas season I challenge you take a step back from the long lines at the mall and the white peppermint mochas and look around at your families and thank God for them. Enjoy them, squeeze out as much time together as possible AND invite other families into your traditions. If there is someone who isn’t very good at baking give them some pointers or if there is someone that needs help with lights pull out your ladder to help. In all of it remember that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ! Rejoice in the fact that our families are bigger than just a dad, a mom, a sister, a crazy uncle; we are a global family and God has blessed us with something amazing!