Letter to a Young Husband at Christmas
Christmas isn’t the same as it was when you were a kid. I don’t know about your Christmases, but when I was a boy, Christmas was amazing: Christmas time meant the possibility of snow (not guaranteed where I grew up), and snow meant sledding. It meant a full two weeks off school. And it meant presents. We opened presents on Christmas Eve, then Christmas Day we drove down to Grandma and Grandpa’s for more presents. Grandma made the most amazing cookies; Christmas just isn’t right without chocolate marshmallow stained glass window cookies. And pie. I am especially fond of pie.
Who could forget the bag full of goodies we got after the kids’ program at church? Church was so special at Christmas. Singing the classics, caroling in the neighborhoods, being with our church family for extra services in a beautifully decorated sanctuary. And of course hearing that familiar story year after year.
Maybe you have similar memories. Maybe you also feel that Christmas just isn’t the same. Sledding is riskier. No time off from work for grown-ups. If you still get presents, you get socks and ties and gift cards. Good stuff, but not the same excitement. It’s hard to make time to see family, if you eat all the cookies and pie you pay for it in the gym later on, and church… well, even going to church is different. The old familiar story seems a little too familiar. Some churches are trying too hard to be fresh and new, while others are maybe a little too traditional. It’s harder to feel excited about being there.
I hope this isn’t too discouraging, but you know that old movie, The Princess Bride? Remember this line? “Get used to disappointment.” That sounds mean, but the reality is Christmas will never be the same as when you were young. It’s not that Christmas has changed. It’s that you have. You know that. And you know that you can’t go back, because you can’t be a young boy again.
And that’s okay. Most of what you loved about Christmas as a boy was not the best part of Christmas. The best part of Christmas is… well… Christ. Jesus. This is cliche, but Christmas is about Jesus. Stop and think about what that means. Think beyond the familiar story of Mary and Joseph and Bethlehem and shepherds and angels and a baby in a manger. Just think about this: God became human. The God who fills eternity stepped into time. The Almighty Being whose words create and define reality became a vulnerable human being. The author of all human life became one of us so he could give us eternal life. If this truth doesn’t overwhelm you, you’re not thinking big enough.
Without Jesus, Christmas is just another excuse for us to be busy, spend money, and eat too much. With Jesus, Christmas is the moment that the definition of reality changed. The thing that really gets me is that Jesus became human forever. He didn’t just become human for a while, then die, now he’s done being human. Colossians 2:9 says that “in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form.” Lives. Not lived. Colossians was written after Jesus died, rose, and ascended. But he still lives in bodily form. Jesus is still human… and God… at the same time.
Christmas means that our God is one of us forever.
Even when you were a boy, that’s what it was all about. You couldn’t have fully grasped that then. Now, you have responsibilities. A wife. Maybe kids as well. You’ve been called to make sure that they see the enormity of this, that God is one of us.
The world uses Christmas time to distract you and your family from this truth. Holiday parties, Santa pictures at the mall, ice skating, sales so you can get the next best toys, all the must-watch movies and Christmas specials, riots of ads and special products. All designed to shift your focus away from the miracle that is the birth of Jesus.
Don’t let that happen to your family. Take up God’s call. Focus on him.
I have some advice for how to keep your family from getting distracted. It starts with a simple, maybe familiar, phrase: Less is more. Choose a few meaningful events to attend. Reduce the must-watch list to a few shows that let you settle in as a family and enjoy being together. Don’t waste too much time waiting in line for pictures with Santa; he’s just a guy in a suit. Buy just a few meaningful gifts for your wife and kids. My kids get four: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. It works. I’m giving you permission to slow down and just be a family.
And this is the last one: Talk about Jesus. You’re the husband. You’re the father. It’s your job to start that conversation. So do it. Tell them what blows you away about him. Share why you love the story. Make it real for their lives.
If you do this, I think you’ll find that Christmas is so much better than when you were young. I know I have. Merry Christmas.