“Christmas just isn’t the same.” That’s what my mom told me Christmas Eve when I talked to her. I remember growing up in upstate NY. We always seemed to have snow for Christmas. Every Christmas Eve my family would get together with all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents from my mom’s side of the family. We’d have food and drinks and open presents and just have so much fun. Afterwards my family would go home and we would do the same. I never grew up believing in Santa Clause. We opened all our gifts on Christmas Eve so there really wasn’t any reason to believe in him.
Between 1986 and 1989 my mom’s parents passed away. No longer did we get together with the rest of the family. It was just us. Still we had good times. We would be singing silly to my parents, having that special family time and always goodies to eat.
I moved away for good in 1999 and have spent my Christmas’ in Indiana and Ohio since then. People tried to help me fit in by inviting me to their family parties, but I felt that I was simply an outsider, trying to fit in with their traditions which were not mine. I do appreciate those families reaching out to me, but it was never the same.
Since being married, we have tried to include my wife’s family into Christmas. Maybe not on Christmas day but we would at least try to meet them somewhere for dinner to exchange gifts. In the past couple years those have all died and my wife’s one nephew is in foster care, with little contact with us so far. The past two years we have not even put up decorations. Last year because we moved two days after Christmas and didn’t want to take everything down and pack it up and this year because since our car accident on November 1st my wife has had Bronchitis, MRSA, and now some rash caused by some virus. My back was injured in the car accident, so I couldn’t lift anything for a while. When I started getting better I got strep along with that rash that my wife now has. We just have not had the energy or desire to be in the Christmas mood this year.
Even when I do go home, it’s just not the same. The area has changed, people have changed, and I have changed. That should be expected; after all it’s been 15-20 years since I have lived there. Life moves on with or without me. In some ways I feel like an outsider there too. Longing for the days when we were all together and life didn’t seem so hard. I also think that goes both ways and that sometimes even my family expects me to be the same as I was when I lived there, but I’m not and never will be. Equally they will never be the same.
The Gospel of Luke according to the traditional view portrays Mary and Joseph as outsiders. Luke says they were from Nazareth and that they could not find any room to stay in so tradition tells us they had to settle for a barn or cave. The story brings shepherds to the manger. People who were often poor and certainly not ranking high in society’s idea of important people.
I wonder sometimes if they felt alone. Did their family and friends talk about them? Did they wonder how they could be so different? After all they had a baby out-of-wedlock. According to the Torah it was a sin that could have killed them both. I wonder what the priests in their hometown said about that? However once that baby was born, nothing was ever going to be the same. They followed the path that God had given them even though others may not have understood it. This often puts people by themselves. Maybe that’s why Jesus grew up challenging authority and reaching out to those in need. If he had been the cause of rumors and the ostracizing of his parents and probably himself, he would have been well aware of how that feels. He would have known the hurt that his parents felt. He would have wanted to help those that society did not think was important because they were like his mom and dad. He would have also challenged those who thought otherwise because they were the ones who hurt his mom and dad.
I feel Jesus was about accepting others, because he was not accepted. I also feel that Jesus had little patience for those who thought that was ok. My wish for this Christmas is that people will accept that people change. That it is not that they have developed some skewed view of the world; but that life has taught those lessons that they don’t feel they can go back on. These lessons were meant for them and not you, because either you didn’t need it or quite possibly you’re not ready. If they are not harming people, simply let them walk their path and accept that God has given you a different path. May God bring you peace and joy this Christmas.