"But that's not fair! Since we already live near your relatives, we should spend Christmas with my family!"
For many families, where to spend Christmas is at best, a yearly dilemma; for others, it's an all-out annual battle, with heated discussions and terribly hurt feelings.
Mission-Minded Families, with Ann Dunagan
Recently, an informal "counseling" question with a newlywed bride turned to a passionate discussion about family life, missions, and total surrender. This God-loving friend and her new husband were having a common early-marriage struggle about where to spend their first Christmas. Since they were already living near his family and relatives, wasn't it "right" that they celebrate Christmas time with her family?
"I'll be Home for Christmas"
"Isn't it an awesome song, with a heart-tugging theme?
With four of our seven children now "grown-up" and living on their own, it's a momma-dream I can relate to . . . sprinkled with annual hopes and anticipation. Christmas-at-home brings to mind favorite traditions, thoughts of yummy delicacies, memories of siblings laughing together and playing games, and of course, snow and mistletoe.
As a surrendered mission-minded believer, I've come to understand that my lovely "Home-Sweet-Home" Christmas-dream isn't necessarily aguaranteed "momma-right" I should expect or think I "deserve."
This year, our oldest son, a 1st Lieutenant in the US Marines, will spend his Christmas season serving our nation in Afghanistan. Our next son just got married (this month!!!) to a sweet girl whose family lives over 2,000 miles away. And our oldest daughter has a serious sweetheart who is a third-generation missionary kid . . . whose family has been faithfully ministering for years in a very needy area of the world, in Niger, West Africa!
A Mission-Minded Christmas . . . focuses on GOD'S HOME:
We all know the clichés, how, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" and "Wise men still seek Him"; but have you and your family ever considered your willingness to surrender to God's purpose for Christmas, in every nitty-gritty area?
As I shared my heart with my newlywed friend, and encouraged her to surrender her "rights" and expectations to God, I shared this inspiring true-life Christmas story about a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators:
Christmas means leaving home, not going home . . .
It was only a few days before Christmas as Bernie May, a pilot for Wycliffe Bible Translators successfully delivered emergency medical supplies to the isolate Amazon village. Now he eagerly anticipated being back with his wife and children in their South American home-away-from-home. Yet as the evening grew dark, he knew he would not be able to fly out until the morning.
With his pontoon plane waiting on the river, Bernie arranged for temporary protection for the night. But then . . . it began to rain. The rain continued, even up until Christmas Eve, the missionary felt increasingly depressed by his misfortune. His wife, Nancy, and their boys were six hours away; and by this time, they would have received his radio message: he would not be home for Christmas.
As a family, they had prepared their hearts to be separated from their loved ones and friends, but it was Christmas Eve . . . and they were now separated even from each other.
Back in Pennsylvania, everyone would be coming home from church-to the sounds of caroling, the smell of roasting turkey, and the sight of falling snow. But where was God's missionary? Here he was . . . stuck in a remote jungle . . . in a makeshift shelter . . . in the pouring rain . . . alone.
In Ruth Tucker's book From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Bernie May tells of his experience:
"Oh God," I moaned, "I'm in the wrong place." . . . But that night, under my mosquito net, I had a visitation from God-something like those shepherds must have had on the hills of Bethlehem.
There were no angels, and no bright lights. But as I lay there in my hammock, desperately homesick, I felt I heard God say, "My son, this is what Christmas is all about. Jesus left heaven and on Christmas morning He woke up in the ‘wrong place'-a stable in Bethlehem. Christmas means leaving home, not going home. My only begotten Son did not come home for Christmas-He left home to be with you."
-- Excerpted from The Mission-Minded Family - Releasing Your Family to God's Destiny, by Ann Dunagan - Published by Biblica - Click for a FREE Sample)
Christmas, and everything about true Bible-believing Christianity, is all about God and His Greatness (including God's GREAT COMMANDMENT, to love God and love others: Matthew 22:36-40, and God's GREAT COMMISSION, to go into all the world to share God's love with others: Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15).
As your family is deciding where to spend Christmas this year, remember to keep the big picture in your mind, and in your heart.
Christmas is about so much more than our home, our family and our "rights." The true meaning of Christmas centers on the reality of God's home in heaven (because that's why Jesus came), loving people into God's family, and surrendering our "rights" to Him, so others can go to heaven too.