Christmas is here! Or, at least it will be by the time you read this.
One year ago, my family was rearranging its celebration of Christmas to accommodate the recent arrival of my new great-nephew, Jameson Stockbridge. This year, the only shuffling of schedules is due to dealing with the many variations of schedules of "the kids" and finding one day when we can all gather.
This Christmas, we will celebrate the promise of the birth of Christ, and we will celebrate the successful completion of treatment by my sister. It's hard to believe her journey had begun a year ago, and that we are able to mark this milestone during our Christmas gathering.
Christmas, though a high holy occasion, is many other things to many different people.
It is a time of family gathering. It doesn't matter if that is one's extended nuclear family, or a family that one has created over the years. In the days leading up to Christmas, the roads and byways are full of travelers, all heading somewhere else. All of us have memories of piling into the car and driving to a destination "over the river and through the woods."
Christmas is still considered one of the worst times to fly, as airports are chock full of travelers trying to get elsewhere. Added to that increase in traffic is the tendency of winter weather to play havoc with airline schedules. Many a Christmas holiday has been spent camped on the floor of an airport terminal by travelers unable to reach their intended destinations.
And, family gatherings are not without their own stressful moments. Just because we are related to someone, it doesn't always mean we want to spend a great deal of time with them. When you pack everyone into a tight space, you no longer have as many options in avoiding those relatives. Sometimes there are arguments and disagreements. In the best situations with disagreeable relatives, family members simply avoid one another and hold their tongues rather than getting into arguments.
Unfortunately, over the years, we've had movies, plays and television shows that all paint a "Norman Rockwell" vision of Christmas. Everyone is happy, everyone is laughing and everyone gets along. If there is a "Scrooge" in the mix, they are usually redeemed by the magic of the season, and end up linking arms with everyone else at the end, singing "Silent Night." Like so much from Hollywood, this is a version that ignores the reality of the situation.
And yet, every year, we put ourselves through the process once again. We convince ourselves that this year will be different. We truly believe that, even though none of the elements change, the end result will be different.
If you truly want different outcomes, you have to take an active hand in the situation. You have to make the decision to set aside any disagreements you may have; and, even if only for a few days, forgive any transgressions real, or imagined, and attempt to get along.
It means that when you hear negative comments that make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, you have to feign deafness. Don't bait others with topics that you already know will cause friction, and don't take the bait when others throw those same topics out on the table.
It means that we take our cues from two thousand years ago rather than from our current lives. The small family of Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census. They suffered the indignities of travel. They had to accept lodging that was fit only for the livestock. And, they had to deal with multitudes who didn't understand their circumstances and their unusual family situation.
I suspect that relying on the lessons from Joseph's family will go much further than hoping for a Hallmark holiday.
It's all just my opinion.