After recovering from the flu (barely), I spent a couple of weekends ago in Florida with my family. My niece attends a performing arts high school and plays bass in the orchestra. We attended the Christmas concert. It is nothing short of amazing to me what teenagers are capable of artistically. The music was stunningly beautiful, and the evening was peaceful.
But listening to the traditional lyrics to all the traditional Christmas music made me think about the traditional, generally recognized side of the Christmas story—ya know…Jesus…born of a virgin…savior…light of the world…complete with the requisite down playing or outright ignoring of a more realistic, historic, or factual version of the story…one that more and more people seem to need these days in order to relate…one that considers Jesus as a man born of a real live woman…a woman in trouble…because she actually HAD sex out of wedlock (whether raped or otherwise) and got pregnant…a story that considers Jesus as a Jew, not a Christian, but a Jew… a trouble maker, a husband and father (most likely), a friend, not a man acting as a missionary, but a real friend to the truly outcast, and perhaps a dude who could laugh as hard and loud and passionately as he could preach.
And I wondered as I sat there soaking in the sonorous tradition, how might Christmas be different and how might our world—and your family life—be different if we celebrated, really celebrated (or at a minimum accepted peacefully) the not-so-traditional version of the Jesus story, and thereby the version of all of our stories that’s not so traditional…so cleaned up…so packaged. There is a whole lot to the historical Jesus that isn’t accepted in mainstream religion. There is a whole lot to our own personal stories that isn’t accepted either.
What if, this Christmas, you worked on acceptance? Acceptance of all that you wish weren’t so or you wish you could hide or you wish others would stop being? How might Christmas dinner be different? How might your conversations around the breakfast table with your teenaged children be different? How might that holiday phone call home to Mom and Dad be different…if you could accept them for who and what they are? Not the cleaned up version or the version you WISH for, but the real one…the full story…the whole shooting match.
The dictionary definition of acceptance…one of them anyway…is “willingly taking a gift.” What is the gift in accepting the not so cleaned up versions of our families or of individual family members? What is the gift in accepting those we love as they are—“weird,” “neurotic,” “immature,” “irresponsible,” “crazy,” “ornery,” or “selfish” as they may be? If you can’t see the gift right away, rest assured. They will. They’ll sense your acceptance immediately.
Maybe you’re the “weird” one in your family. Or perhaps you feel like you are. I wonder what it might take for a little self-acceptance for you this Christmas…or whatever holiday you are celebrating. I can tell you from experience, you are not going to achieve a whole lot of it by staying away from your family. That’s what most of us do, right? Remove ourselves? Shrink? Stay away and hide the not-so-cleaned-up versions?
But consider, that it is the “weird” ones throughout history that have brought change and hope—Jesus, Gandhi, Tutu, Mandela, King…my cousin Greg. Maybe you could be that “Crazy Aunt Mildred”…just the person your niece needs…just what she needs to have a sense there is life out there…that there are perspectives and ways of living that don’t fit a nice, neat package…there is a place for her.
This holiday, may you be the acceptance you hope to find in the world.