Christmas in a New Place
The common cultural expressions and representations of Christmas are everywhere you look. From the tinsel and tidings, carols and cookies and the ribbons and reindeer, the Christmas spirit is certainly in the air. But we wanted to dust off some of the snowflakes and glitter and share some stories that might be easy to miss during this season of all things shiny and sparkly. We invite you to join us for this blog series as we share An Uncommon Christmas. (Articles: How To Buy A Cow, Finding Joy When Grief Is Heavy, Raising Uncommon Kids, Unwrapping Change, Christmas On The Mission Field)
Just the other day, I had to answer a questionnaire. I had to answer questions like,
What's your favorite Christmas carol?
What's your favorite Starbucks Christmas drink?
What's the one gift you wanted as a kid, but never got?
What's your favorite gift you gave to someone else?
What's your favorite Christmas tradition?
That last one got me. I had to stop for a minute, but not because I didn't know the answer. Not because I had to collect my thoughts because I didn't know what to say. I didn't have to dig deeply back into the well of memories, or make up something because I didn't have a good one.
I had a doozy.
But I found myself pausing, because what once was...wasn't. What I held on to as a core memory wasn't going to happen this year.
It didn't have to do with a present. Or the hopeful desire of getting gifts. Or the lights or the tree or the Christmas movies. See, every Christmas morning...and by every Christmas morning I mean every single one, my dad would do something that he only did once every year. He would get up early, walk to the kitchen, and start making his homemade donuts with homemade icing. He'd roll out the dough, mix the sugar for the icing, then heat up the oil. That first sizzle of the pan was better than any Christmas carol you'd ever hear. The smell of freshly cooked donuts weaved its way throughout the house as we eagerly awaited inhaling them while they were still warm.
As I'm writing this, my mouth is literally watering.
But this year, it's not happening... because we're not going home for Christmas. We now live 2000 miles from my home state of TN. Logistics and finances, among other factors, mean for the first time ever... there will be no tender Tennessee Christmas for the Reeds. In L.A., it's a warm holiday.
We could sit, mope, and cry ourselves into a despicable, depressing mess through the holidays as we lament what was and what could've been. Among the gifts we'll exchange and unwrap on Christmas morning, the biggest one is "change." It is a family gift. And that's exactly how we're choosing to see it... a gift. We've realized that change is an opportunity, not a debilitating challenge. It's an opportunity to explore the new city we now call home, discover new adventures and build something new and memorable together.
Maybe you've moved, like we have, and all of your traditions had to be upended. Maybe someone you love moved, and...all of your traditions had to be upended. Maybe your kids are all grown up. Maybe you've got other people living with you. Maybe someone you love passed away this year. Maybe you got married, and traditions need to change. Or your dad got remarried.
Someone is still finding ways to adapt to change that isn't new, while others are unwrapping change for the first time this year. Whatever kind of change you're dealing with, I encourage you to use this Christmas season to look forward toward something new. Don't simply dwell on what was. Dig a new path. Chart a new course. Take a deep breath, take a step forward and look at this season as an opportunity to do something different. If you're like me, you know God often does some of his best work in your life through change.
Since we're unwrapping a big shiny box full of fresh change this year, our family has decided to do things a little differently. For us, we're trying to figure out what our new traditions as a family are. We're embracing the newness of this season in our lives, and making new traditions.
California isn't Tennessee, but it sure is great. For starters, we get to walk around in shorts and t-shirts while we look at the Christmas lights. It's typically in the 70s and 80s during the day here.
We are also going to Disneyland to see all of the festive decorations. Couldn't have done that in Tennessee.
We don't get real snow here like we did back home, but our church pumps in tons of snow for the kids to sled and play in.
Finally, a few days before Christmas this year, we're going to the beach with new friends from our church to have a bonfire and eat pizza. If you didn't know, there's not really a strong "beach" culture in Tennessee.
Seasons change and sometimes, traditions change. And that's okay. Don't let change undo you. Allow God to write a new story in and through your life this year.
I'm taking a cue from the wisest man who ever lived.
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.
...a time to weep [for what was]
...a time to gain [what is and will be]
...a time to love.
Don't just look back and lament what you had. Look forward and create new. This Christmas, unwrap change with expectancy and hope about how God might be at work through change in your life.
You better believe that this year, I'll be making the homemade donuts.
Additional Christmas resources from What's In The Bible?
Ben Reed and his wife Laura live in Southern California with their two children, Rex, 6, and Gracie Kate, 2. Ben served for eight years as a Small Groups pastor at two churches in Nashville, TN, before joining the Small Groups Staff at Saddleback Church in the fall of 2014. Ben is the author of "Starting Small - The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint" and blogs regularly at BenReed.net.
Your family can learn more about the history of Christmas, and how Santa Claus, Christmas Trees and many of our modern holiday traditions point back to Jesus in Phil Vischer's Buck Denver Asks... Why Do We Call It Christmas?Now streaming on JellyTelly!
For more ways to celebrate and learn about Christmas, visit one of the pages below!