Reclaiming the Holidays

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Growing up with annual trips to grandma’s house, visiting with aunts and uncles who I only saw at the holiday times and who sent birthday card as communication with my family and I, made very cynical about the holidays in my teenage years. This was surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter particularly.

In fact, when I became old enough to stay home for a long weekend, I did. I felt hurt by my maternal family who lived five to seven hours away and never came to visit us, we always had to make the trips to see them. My high sense of injustice at our continual driving to them grew into bitterness and cynicism about holidays. Feeling this way continued into my twenties as the frustration of commercialism became a bigger frustration due to the minimalism I had experienced after high school while living in Mexico and Guatemala as a missionary. 

I felt as though holidays were only traditions that did not mean praising Jesus for rising from the dead, giving thanks for what had been given or worshiping the baby in the manger, but instead a road trip experiencing family drama and seeing how many gifts we could acquire. As a Christian, this felt empty and like a waste of time we should spend focusing on the reason for the seasons.

Major changes to my heart were about to take place and I am so thankful for these few experiences that made all the difference in how I currently view holidays. When I left home for the Navy, I experienced Thanksgiving with my dad’s brother and his family who lived close to the base where I was in training. I actually enjoyed the experience. His wife drove an hour to get me and welcome me into their home. The time with them was focused on being thankful, eating (of course) and enjoying the time with family. It was a relief to have that break after four months of rigorous boot camp and the training that followed after it. And I loved that they were thankful to Jesus during that day because my faith was what gave me strength to endure boot camp. 

That winter I also flew from Florida to Wisconsin and stay at home with my family, attending Christmas Eve service in my home church. It was beautiful. The Lord worked on my heart and I worshiped the baby, and risen Lord that night. My cynical heart began to soften. There comes a freedom in our spirit when we allow God to work. Being an adult is great because of the choices you are capable of making. When you decide to allow God to work in your heart and then follow through with that action, changes happen. I decided that my holidays were going to be about Jesus and I reclaimed them for that celebration.

Through these experiences and my decision to allow my holidays to be about Jesus, my husband and I are very intentional about our holidays. I love that we can focus on what we want instead of commercialism and family drama around our holiday times. Because my husband is not currently a Christian, we view holidays about Jesus very differently, but that doesn’t negate me from celebrating Jesus and sharing that with our kids.

If you are in the same place as I was and have a cynical heart towards the holidays, maybe you are feeling a stirring in your heart to make a few changes. I pray you are. Here are some verses that you should consider meditating on:

Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States as a time of thankfulness for the harvest. The following reasons, in addition to what God’s blessed us with, are reasons to be thankful.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:20-25, New International Version)

These verses are a powerful reminder that Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit, that he is “God with us”. We can celebrate Christmas and have joy that not only did the baby in the manger, Jesus, come to us and then with the coming of Easter, Jesus died and rose from the dead as an atonement for our sins.  

 “5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mark 16:5-7, New International Version)

 “9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, New International Version)

I know for many holidays can be hard for many reasons, whether it’s family, family drama or loss of a loved one. The holidays represent so many things for so many people. I don’t want to negate those feelings and emotions. If you are struggling with deep feelings of depression, anxiety or just need to talk to someone about your holiday experiences, please reach out to a counselor. 

Scripture taken from the New International Version. Copyright 2011. Used with Permission. All rights reserved.

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CultureDanielle Roberts