One of my favourite traditions is exchanging annual Christmas letters with family and friends. The updated photo, highlights of the year, and general well-wishes diminish the miles that separate me and my loved ones. I love reading how others celebrate the holiday and live their faith throughout the year.
Nothing has ever put a damper on these letters – until now. A Christmas Scrooge who loathes family letters recently dubbed the entire tradition a Mattel holiday practice. He claims that letter after letter regurgitates the same story of the same plastic year: the compulsory portrait of super-successful Ken and Barbie with their children Skipper and Kelly and dog Tanner, the details of the summer vacation, the unexpected promotion, Soccer Mom’s busy schedule juggling car pool, kids, cooking, blah, blah, blah. He says it’s all about one-upmanship.
Scrooge asks for authenticity. If the Mattel family needs to send a letter, he says, they could at least be honest and admit their struggles.
If he’s right, it puts me in a bit of a pickle because I love writing and receiving these letters. I guess I’m a glass half-full kind of person compared to Scrooge’s half-empty cup. I don’t skip the trials and print only the triumphs but, with God’s help, I try to find the blessing within the trial. Don’t assume I’ve sold out and become a Gap-crazy copycat. I choose to overflow with thankfulness (as Colossians 2:7 puts it).
Yes, we’ve had struggles this year. I don’t know anyone the difficult economy hasn’t affected, us included. We’ve indefinitely postponed our basement renovations which downsized our living space at the same time our adoption application was processed, potentially expanding our family sooner than expected. We went from one car to a car and a van and discovered the repair bills on two vehicles may be too high to keep them both. We had the unpleasant surprise of discovering a tremendous amount of water in our basement.
It’s also honest to say we’re thankful God has provided us with our home (unfinished basement and all) and blessed us with a healthy growing family. It’s also honest to say it will be difficult to give up the second car that provided me with wheels for the first time in our 11-year marriage, but we know it’s a luxury, not a necessity. And when we found the water downstairs, we gave thanks the basement was still unfinished when the clouds turned on their faucet.
It’s good to praise the Lord and proclaim God’s love and faithfulness (Psalm 92:1-3). This is not an optional attitude for believers. It should be part of who we are at our very core. Biblical thankfulness is not a reaction to the good times, but a choice in all times.
The Apostle Paul instructed the church in Thessalonica to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Notice he says in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.
Next time you receive a Christmas letter filled with more gratitude than complaints, consider that it might be purposeful. We believers have every reason to count our blessings. And we have an opportunity to model a different kind of gratitude. We can give thanks knowing God will give us what we need, not always what we want, and that we’ve already been given the greatest gift – a chance to know the living God in a real and personal way through a relationship with his Son, Jesus.
So, Merry Christmas from the Weeks family! Enjoy the glossy photo, the lovely daughter, and yes, we’re doing great. Our vacation was wonderful (first cruise ever!), Kev is working hard, and Kaitlyn’s schedule – soccer and everything – keeps me busy. We love our home and are thankful for friends who bailed out our basement, bucket by bucket. The van is wonderful and we’re surprised the car still runs. Our second adoption is moving along, the economy is difficult, but we’re happy anyway. It’s all true.