I open the passenger door, and, careful not to get that nasty salt-mixed-with-gravel-dust grime on my skirt, settle into the car.
I take a deep breath and turn to my husband.
"Okay, let's do this thing."
And we're off to the family Christmas party.
Let's just go right ahead and be honest about it.
The holidays bring out the crazy in every family.
Whether it's grandpa's slightly inappropriate remarks, or an old rivalry between cousins, or the sister's boyfriend that no one really likes, tension is almost as plentiful at the dining room table as the mashed potatoes.
Family is... complicated.
The holidays bring tension in family relationships.
I think it's tempting for us to look at the Christmas story and gloss over the tense parts. The whole "Joseph was planning on quietly divorcing Mary" part isn't something you read about in those Advent devotionals, for example. But I think part of the reason we miss the tension is because it's understated.
In Luke's account of the Christmas story, Joseph and Mary head to Bethlehem for the census, and when they arrive, there is no room at the inn.
We've all heard the story.
But I have to ask- why were Mary and Joseph staying at a hotel in the first place?
In a culture where hospitality was central, Joseph and Mary show up in Joseph's hometown, and not one relative has a spare bedroom?
While it's not explicit in the text, I have to wonder if Joseph's risky decision to marry Mary cost him his family, at least for a time. It was probably no great secret that Mary was pregnant, and had become so out of wedlock.
Scandal. Drama. Family shame.
Jesus may very well have made his family outcasts, rejected by their relatives. Instead of being welcomed into a loving family home, Joseph and Mary were left in the cold of a stable.
But Joseph stood by his bride, despite the family conflicts that it could have caused.
And he did it for the One who would make us all a family.
The One who would take orphans and make them sons of God.
In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us. -Ephesians 1:4-6
This Advent, with all the parties and family gatherings, you may be feeling like you don't belong. You may be far from home, away from those you love. Or maybe there is an empty chair at the table, an empty dining room, or an empty feeling even though you're surrounded by people.
Loneliness is a very real part of the holidays for many.
Maybe it's a lonely holiday season for you.
This Christmas, we celebrate not only the birth of our Savior, but the family that we are part of through his love. We celebrate the new family he has made for us.
We have been placed in the family of Christ- forever and always- here in this eternal family. No amount of family drama or conflict will get you uninvited to the table. Through Jesus Christ, there is always a place at the family table of God.
We can always find family in Him.
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