And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [Luke 2:10-11 (ESV)]

Even though “Black Friday” sales already have started and stores have been decorated for Christmas since Halloween, the holiday season doesn’t officially start until Thursday with Thanksgiving. Although the angel brought good news of joy to the shepherds and told them not to be afraid, the holiday season brings a sense of dread and anxiety for many of us. “Stress” and “family” are two words that shouldn’t go together but often do. The dynamics of several families and generations gathering together over the holidays can put a strain on everyone as different traditions, expectations, politics, and faiths collide with one another. Couples struggle to keep both in-laws and parents happy while grandparents overindulge their grands. Children get too much sugar and not enough sleep, too much money is spent, and too much alcohol often gets consumed. Add to that the challenges presented by long-distance travel with its almost inevitable lost luggage, delays, or cancellations and trying to maintain peace at a politically divided dinner table and we have the makings of a perfect storm! The joy of the season easily gets lost in the stress of the season.

Hoping to have a perfectly orchestrated Thanksgiving feast and Christmas celebration, we often have unrealistic expectations and are disappointed when they’re not met. In actuality, our holiday is more likely to resemble that of the Griswolds than anything we’ll see on the Hallmark channel. Because we don’t live in TV-land, our problems won’t be resolved in ninety minutes and happy endings are not guaranteed. Things can and will go awry and there are no retakes when they do. Babies cry and spit up, toddlers have tantrums, children get tired and cranky, adolescents pout, milk spills, cakes fall, roasts burn, toys break, people sing out of tune, planes get delayed, and someone’s feelings are sure to get hurt. We just have to learn to accept and love the imperfections of our loved ones and understand that chaos and confusion are a part of life. Let us resign ourselves to the noise, disorder, and stress that comes with any family gathering and concentrate on the love, joy, and peace God brought to us when Jesus came into the world so very long ago.

Lord, guide us this holiday season so that what should be a joyous time of year doesn’t become a joyless one. Help us to have realistic expectations as we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Please, give us an extra dose of patience and a sense of humor when things go awry. May your message of love and peace fill our hearts and minds.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14 (ESV)]

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