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When Christmas Doesn't Look the Same

By Rainy Lehman

“And Mary said, Behold the handmaiden of the Lord: be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”
Luke 1:46-47

For twenty-five years of my life, Christmas looked the exact same every single year. We woke up early on Christmas morning. My younger sister and I would assess the presents under the tree – yes, we did this even as adults – and we would wait excitedly for our parents to finally wake up, get their coffee, and meet us around the tree. I am convinced that no one pours coffee slower than my daddy on Christmas morning! We went one by one, opening our gifts, and then we always had the most delicious biscuits and gravy. Afterward, we would go to my grandmother’s house to celebrate with her and my dad’s family. It was a magical tradition that I loved and found comfort in. 

Fast forward to today. I am a happily married Army wife! I am getting to live the desire of my heart with the man of my dreams, and I love this life that has God given me! However, anyone who has ever served in the military or married into the military life knows that you get very little say in where you live and even where you spend your free time. On top of that, my husband is also an incredible physician, and medicine never takes a holiday. This past Christmas we got his December schedule and sure enough “Lehman” was listed as working on the 25th. With that information in hand, I began to wonder what Christmas was going to look like this year.

One thing I knew for sure, it would not look the same. 

I wish I could say that I took that revelation like a champ but much to my chagrin, I immediately began planning my pity party. I cannot go back and change last Christmas; all I can do is learn from it. Here are a few things I learned:

  1. Despite the circumstances surrounding Christmas, the meaning of Christmas does not change! As simple as that may sound, when the traditions you are used to are no longer there, the devil will start to put thoughts in your mind like- “Well, Christmas is ruined – might as well not even celebrate it!” What a selfish thought! The perfect, holy Son of God willingly wrapped Himself in flesh and came down to earth for the sole purpose of saving a bunch of wretched, wicked, sinners like us! Jesus’ birth is worth celebrating (Matthew 1:21)!

  2. Make new traditions! Traditions to me mean safety and security, but when you no longer have those, a whole world of new possible traditions opens up to you. This year, my husband and I decorated cookies together for the first time, and we had a blast! We put cocoa in the thermos, loaded up our dogs, and went and drove through Christmas lights together. These are things that we probably would not have had time for if we had been away for the holidays, but these are precious memories that I will cherish forever.

  3. Take a deep breath – it is all going to work out! I worried for weeks about this “new Christmas” because I did not know what to expect. Looking back, that was a lot of precious time and energy wasted on worrying. Sure, my heart was saddened a little when I had to watch my family open gifts together through a grainy video call, but my husband and I had the sweetest little Christmas.  We got to spend some much-needed quality time together because we were not rushing from one family Christmas gathering to another or bombarded with friend’s Christmas party invitations.

  4. Christmas will be as special as you make it. If you are determined to have a pity party and not enjoy the wonder of the season, then that is exactly what you are going to have. You have the choice to make the best of the situation God has placed you in. So, I encourage you not to squander it.

I think about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her Christmas looked vastly different than what she had planned.

She did not plan to be a pregnant virgin and face the ridicule and shame that followed. She did not plan to make a long, uncomfortable journey while she was “great with child.” Mary did not expect to give birth to the Son of God, let alone have to do it in a smelly manger. When the angel came to tell her the news, she had no idea what was awaiting her on this journey, but she placed her full trust in God and answered simply, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

There are missionaries, deployed soldiers, and people with spouses or children in Heaven. Christmas doesn’t even feel like Christmas to them anymore. No matter what your situation, if Christmas looks a little different this year, let me challenge you to not get wrapped up in the negative. The traditions and plans are not what make Christmas Christmas.

No matter how many gifts are under the tree, who is missing from around the dinner table, or where God has us this season, may we all be like Mary and be quick to reply, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”


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