For many, Christmas (and Thanksgiving, birthdays, family reunions, awkward anniversaries, that one summer family trip, etc) can be difficult, particularly if your family doesn’t love the Jesus that you love. Going home can feel like visiting a completely foreign culture, where people speak a different language and love foreign things. It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and emotionally draining. For a day that is intended to be marked by hope, joy and peace – Christmas is often anything but that for many. So, I want to offer a word of encouragement by way of the Gospel.
First, remember that God rescued you even while you were a sinner. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:6,8 You get a taste of the radical love that God has for you when you are around people that are hard to love. Why? Because when you were unloving, stubborn, arrogant, and sarcastic towards God, he loved and died for you. Amazing. Now you get to demonstrate that same love towards others who are equally hard to love. God has been immeasurably patient with you, you can be patient with them. If there is hope for you, there is hope for them.
Second, your salvation is a gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Eph 2:8 All that you have, and are, in Christ, is a gift from God. You did not earn it. Trusting this will help prevent you from growing self-righteous, as though you did something to merit God’s approval. You are saved by grace, through faith alone. Your salvation is a gift. By God’s grace, the salvation of your family will be received as a gift too. Gift your family with the gift of grace, love, and patience.
Third, God wants your family to love Him more than you do. Though it may be hard to believe, God wants your family to trust, love and follow Jesus more than you do. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish…” John 3:16 God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim2:4) There is mystery here. He could save them. He hasn’t. Yet, he loves them. This is His story. Be faithful, while trusting His perfect timing and plan.
Fourth, God wants to change you too. Christmas isn’t only about how difficult it is to be around your family; its about you too. It’s about God working, not only to change your difficult circumstances, but to change your heart amidst them. He is working on “conforming you into the image of His Son” (Rom8:29). He’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Ask Him, “What are you wanting to do in me during this season?”
Fifth, God wants you to pray. You can’t change your family, but He can. God wants you to experience the joy, intimacy and trust in Him that can only be had through regular, consistent, heart-felt prayer. Are you at that place where you know only God can bring deep and lasting change to your family? If so, you’ll pray. If not, you’ll continue to fret, grow frustrated, and be anxious. Try praying. He is the God who is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Eph 2:20-21
Lastly, check out some of these resources. Crossway is offering a free copy of Bringing the Gospel Home, by Randy Newman. The folks at Desiring God also posted a helpful summary of the book here: Ten Ways to Bring the Gospel Home this Christmas. Charles Spurgeon (famous 19th century pastor in London) also has a sermon, Going Home, that deals specifically with bring this topic.