Finding Normalcy in an Abnormal Christmas

The icebreaker topic what are your traditions/what are you doing for Christmas Eve and Day?” felt like ice in my veins. I told myself to buck-up and get my happy face on so I’d be ready to breeze through my turn.

But the truth was: I did not want to talk about my Christmas, and how abnormal it would be.

Maybe I’ll lie…

As the women around the table spoke, I realized I wasn’t alone. A young woman just became a mom. Another is getting divorced. One recently buried her own mother. Another is dealing with her mom’s rehabilitative recovery from a life-threatening event. One woman is many states away from her family, travel costs are too high so she’ll be alone. And someone else has a spouse being deployed before the bells of Christmas Eve ring.

In a baker’s dozen, the majority spoke of abnormal Christmas plans.

When it came to my turn, I remained cheery but told the truth of a simple and quiet Christmas that will include me, the hubs, and our cats. We’ll take it easy, hang in our PJs. Maybe that day I’ll have an opportunity to do something for those less fortunate than me. It’s a big departure from what my family feels I should be doing for Christmas—being with them in below freezing weather of the mid-west.

But things are different this year on so many levels. And it’s just not the year for me to be with my parents and sibling. It’s the year I am to be home with my small family, knowing that this is the very best option for me under the circumstances. Yet there is oddness—and uneasiness—in not knowing how I’ll react to Christmas Day without being surrounded by the traditions—the normalcy—I’ve held close to my heart.

I felt a kindred closeness listening to these women, as I realize few are having a normal Christmas. So much change. So much letting go and creating new. We are women embracing the season of change and birth. A birth of something new in our lives amidst abnormal circumstances.

It is the season when a mother gave scandalous birth to a baby no earthly father could claim. A baby she would watch grow-up to stir commotion. Start a revolt against religious elite. His siblings would call him crazy for claiming to be…deity. It’s the birth of a baby that would eventually be taken from its mother, and she’d watch his last painful breath on a cross.

At Christmas, there is a verse—familiar to many—that stirs me. It stirs me to my core.  Luke 2:19 in various translations says:

~ But Mary treasured up all these things & pondered them in her heart. NIV
~ But Mary kept all these things in her heart & thought about them often. NLT
~ But Mary kept thinking about all this & wondering what it meant. CEV

I can’t help but see a young girl, birthing a child. Just her and Joseph huddled up in less than comfortable settings—an obscure hole in the wall. Feeling somewhat alone. Helpless. Maybe even a sense of being abandoned, as there is no mention of Mary’s family or friends there to help. And she holds this new baby. She has no idea what she’s gotten herself into.

In the quietness of the night she pounders and wonders into the depths of her soul.

She recalls the good times less than a year ago—on just an ordinary day while she went about doing ordinary work— a wondrous angel appeared to her saying, “You have found favor with God…You are to call him Yeshua (Jesus)… the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

A visit from an angel! Who would possibly believe her? She was just a simple girl. This is a great thing to treasure in her heart and think back on often.

But then there are the other parts of that first night that must have caused a swirl of mixed emotions in her heart. She has joy in her new baby that juxtaposes the sadness in knowing things will never be like they once were. She is a mother now. And some of her heart breaks in knowing the reality of her current suffering. Her unfair tarnished reputation—would her home town always gossip and whisper behind her back? Uncertainty of the future and their poverty—how could this baby become what the angel said? And fears any young girl in her state would have. Did Joseph really believe that she never cheated on him? Could she only tell her cousin and fiancé the wonders of being visited by an angel and the wild things she was told?

But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.

Mary and Yeshua —alone, away from home, apart from the comforts they’d known. Neither received the fanfare and celebration of a birth. No less a birth that would change…everything.

With this birth, all traditions were tossed out the door. Nothing was normal at all for this day we now call the first Christmas. And somehow, the real story of Christmas—Mary, Yeshua, and Joseph in a situation where all normalcy was gone—gives me strength and hope for my abnormal Christmas.

I wish I’d had this epiphany full circle as I sat at the table that day, as one woman after then next spoke with uncertain bravery of the days ahead. Of being alone, apart, different.

Christmas isn’t always about being surrounded by family, piles of gifts, and a special brunch or dinner. While those traditions are what I’ve held deeply sacred—there is something far more sacred going on within the changes surrounding my life. And like Mary, I ponder, treasure, and wonder what it all means—these events of the last year that has led me to my abnormal Christmas.

Christmas day, when nothing happened as it should EXCEPT that a baby was born in a manager, to a poor-nobody-virgin alone without friends and family, and this baby she held—this hope—his name was Yeshua—because that’s what the angel instructed straight from God.

So, if you find yourself in an abmornal Christmas this year, I hope you find comfort in knowing that “abnormal” is how this whole Christmas thing got started. You’re not alone. You never were.

Copyright © 2009- 2011 Sherry Meneley . All Rights Reserved . soiledwings.com . sherrymeneley.com . soiled wings createHEART create heart truth soulution soul’ution life coach coaching

13 thoughts on “Finding Normalcy in an Abnormal Christmas

  1. Sherry – this is beautiful!!! Love you and your soul to the core. May this year be the beginning of starting your own new traditions to carry forward.

  2. I ponder, treasure, and wonder what it all means—these events of the last year that has led me to my abnormal Christmas.

    Well Said and well received…Thank you, Thank you

  3. Sherry, some of my favorite memories involve Christmas. Wonderful parties. Contact with people I love. Giving and receiving gifts that have meaning to them. Interacting with loved ones as we cook and bake and then share those goodies in fellowship around the table and in goody boxes we share with others. Lots of singing in programs, in church, in nursing homes, and on the streets. All sorts of wonderful interaction. Warm fuzzies. Even the decorations can set the tone. But this year, much like last year, we have a simple Christmas planned. Due to circumstances that involve reduced finances, fewer loved-ones and friends close by, new roles in a different location, we aren’t “doing” the things that cause our normal Christmas warm fuzzies. We used to decorate with candles in windows, 4 trees, 2 mantles, door wreaths and greenery wrapped around staircase banisters. We used to make 100s of tiny loaves of nut-breads. Lots of “used to” memories. Now? Two people in a whole lot of “new” with a whole lot of “nothing” while everyone else is busy with their own “normal.” Rather than focusing on what is missing, we’re trying to focus on the simple truths of Christmastime. Truths that don’t burn out after Christmas. They don’t get packed away. They don’t rack up bills that come due during “reality” January. Truths that last. I’m guessing there are plenty of us who are experiencing a new kind of Christmas. There’s no wrong or right way to celebrate Christmas. But I’m sure glad that even in our toned-down version of the holidays, there’s still a HOLY BIRTHDAY to celebrate!

    • Kathy, I am stunned at how your comment speaks to me & to our transition and possible next steps. I wish I could explain how unbelievably timely it is for me – but all that I can say is that I had already been facing what you describe & that just yesterday two specific things happened to break it open all the fear & anxiety – & then last night your comment showed up in my inbox – giving me a place to stand & sort through some of my emotions. Especially it gave me hope that I can survive a “toned-down version” of the holidays and of the future in general.

      Thanks for taking the time to articulate your experience. It is a gift to me.

      • Kaye, I’m glad what I replied and what Sherry started here speaks to you. I think one reason we get a little melancholy at the holidays is because we have confused “love” with “activity” and lack of activity with LONELINESS. I get so nostalgic at Christmastime because of all the warm fuzzies I’m missing. Now I’m learning a way to cherish the memories without mourning the loss. It really IS a sort of grief process. And often, when it’s not a conscience choice, but more or less something that is forced upon us we need to take control over our emotions by recognizing the loss and letting it go in a way that helps us welcome the change. When I think of what January will be like without the bills, the clean-up and the fatigue, that helps. January is a time for new dreams, fresh starts, and a renewed purpose. I’m ready to face it in all of my energy, strength, and focus because of the simple Christmas season that left me with extra rather than less. To me, that’s a pretty great trade, a full year of “new” instead of one month of “excess.”

      • 103% with you on this. I’m embracing the softness and peace that this abnormal Christmas brings. The lack of stress from trying to complete and do all things Christmasy. I’m embracing my “new normal.” <—and it feels good

  4. Same here. Different. And less “normal”. But I like it.

    Sometimes “normal” gets in the way…

    I’ve spent too many years cursing under my breath “I hate Christmas” as I decorate the house…it’s true. Sad, but true. This is my second Christmas without the stuff that adds stress. No tree. No Stockings. No wreath. And only one gift (from each person of our little family–created, not bought)Terrible–isn’t it? And I have kids 5 & 8. What if people found out we were depriving them of all the red and green tinsel and armloads of presents?

    Oh, but wait…I forgot to mention…the stack of Jesusy Christmas books we read from daily, the advent candle we light each night, and the moments we take to write down the gift we are thankful for in that day. I think they will be ok that those scents of pine and gingerbread are not lingering in the house because we are intentional to remember the One who longs to linger in our hearts.

    I quite enjoy the abnormalcy of our very Jesusy Christmas.

  5. Thank you for this. It was just what I needed to read and be reminded of. Blessings to you this Christmas.

  6. Sherry, over the years, Christmas for Ken and me has changed this way and that. In recent years we celebrated without our families aboard Second Wind with other cruising couples in the harbor each with their odd traditions, few of which included the story of Bethlehem. Christmas still comes every year, Sherry. It’s not about love, or peace, or cozy family settings, decorations and food. It’s that Jesus came . . . for me, for you, too. That’s it. All those other things are extras, by products, but not the emphasis. So find some time to celebrate, just Jesus and you, then share the outflow of His love to everyone around you. Love you, Sweetie . . . and remembering hilarious Christmas “programs” where all you kids each did a song or something before opening the presents! You and Doug . . . can’t type, I’m giggling!

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