In America we are beginning our holiday season and the tension is already beginning to build. Thanksgiving is approximately two weeks away but the stores have been putting Christmas decorations out since October. How do we prepare our hearts for all the added activities, family gatherings, difficult personalities and enjoy the traditions that mean the most to us? We can start by setting boundaries and goals.
In the 1989 movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold plans to have the best Christmas ever with his entire family. His grand idea includes having the biggest tree they can find, lighting the entire house in twinkly lights and enjoying a wonderful sit down dinner in harmony. However once the grandparents arrive the bickering begins and his dream starts falling apart. Clark is perpetually optimistic and sometimes in denial but still passionate about putting on the perfect family holiday. His wife Ellen doesn’t share his outlook but supports him all the way. After a hilarious sequence of mishaps the movie ends with everyone on the front lawn enjoying the beautiful lights and Clark is satisfied that his goal was achieved. ( Warning : this movie was originally rated R for language and some racey scenes. It is often modified for TV)
What can we learn from this crazy tale? Clarks’ heart was in the right place but his goals were unrealstic. Beverly was the perfect hostess, “we have plenty of room, plenty to eat and plenty of balnkets” and was supportive of her husband. They were kind to unexpected company as well as elderly confused and grouchy relatives. Everyone truly tried to make the best of the situation and enjoyed the evening. We can control some of the chaos.
Set realistic goals: If this has been a difficult year for you whether financially, health issues, loss in the family; keep it simple. Family size and traditions can change. What is most important to you? Don’t fall into the trap that more is better.
Be a good host or guest: The goal is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Ask how you can help if you are the guest.
Manage expectations : Despite careful planning something inevitably will go wrong. Be flexible and don’t let it ruin the day.
Share blessings: Before eating and asking a blessing on the meal and people gathered, ask each person to share one thing they are grateful for.
Shut off the electronics for awhile: I know, big football games are on! Weather permitting go for a walk. Play board games or a group game like Pictionary. Look at old photo albulms together. After Thanksgiving day enjoy the free lights and activities around town.
Be sensitive to those who are struggling: Anyone struggling with a crisis, loss, over stimulation or trauma may want some space. Let them opt out of the activities in a quieter corner.
Guard the conversation: Don’t react to negative comments and try to steer clear of politics and other hot topics.
Put the fun in dysfuntion: We live in a broken world with broken families and we all have weird relatives. Focus on the good. Tell stories and have a good laugh.
1 Peter 4:9(ESV) Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Thanksgiving should be a time to focus on what we do have and not what is wrong in our lives or our world. The first Pilgrims had plenty to complain about but they chose to be grateful. Most of us have plenty of everything. Let us be intentional on sharing the good things God has done over the past year and show the light of Jesus in our homes.
Psalm 100 A PSALM FOR GIVING THANKS.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.