Christmas is a funny time of year. There is always so much tradition attached to it, expectations and pressures to make it as perfect a time as possible . . .
It’s also a time of memories – memories of Christmas past, good and bad – thoughts of those who are no longer part of our lives for whatever reason – along with hopes that this Christmas will be one to remember for all the right reasons. For me Christmas has always been a difficult time . . .
During childhood Christmas followed the same pattern year after year – I’d wake up on Christmas morning to find a pillow case of presents just inside the bedroom door . . . . . I’d have to open those presents alone in my room trying not to make too noise with the wrapping, otherwise I’d be screamed at to be quiet and find a fist making contact with my face or body. . . . to be honest how can you open presents without making some noise? We’d dress in our best and trail off to church . . . . where a pretence of being a happy family enjoying Christmas together was played out to perfection . . . church over while dinner was cooking I had to sit and write my thank you letters, in perfect writing and with appropriate politeness always dated with Boxing Day’s date. . . . Christmas dinner would be timed to end just in time for us all to be in front of the TV for the Queen’s speech at 3pm. During dinner my parents would pick apart everything that happened at church, leaving me wondering why they bothered going . . . . . Queen’s speech over I’d be shown the door, or kicked out, whichever . . . the rest of Christmas day was spent wandering the streets . . . killing time . . . keeping warm . . . . I might be allowed in later that night or have to sleep out on the streets, depending on whatever mood would take my parents . . .
So Christmas as a child was just another day:– another day of fear . . .violence. . . . pretence . . . lies . . . aloneness . . . exclusion . . . surviving . . .
Moving on from childhood Christmas has been a mixed bag . . . and not a very nice mixed bag . . . not having family of any shape or form makes Christmas very difficult . . . year after year I tried various things . . . working. . . . . studying . . . helping on homeless projects . . . asking friends to be part of my Christmas, but they have families that I cannot be part of and who naturally take 1st priority in their lives . . . there was no getting away from that aloneness no matter what I did . . .
Over the period that I was living with friends I was part of their Christmas which was great . . . another year I went to stay with friends in Wales . . . they wanted me there but one member of their family took exception to me being there and actually said “what’s she doing here? she’s not family”- and she made sure I knew exactly what contempt she felt for me ‘gate crashing’ her family Christmas. She made life very uncomfortable indeed, and my friends were mortified . . . but that kind of finished things for me . . . after that I felt I just could not look to friends again and had to find another way of doing Christmas . . .
Then I came across a company called Travelsphere . . . they do coach tours over Christmas to Europe . . . and they aren’t expensive either . . . so I travel with them to the Alps . . . this will be the third Christmas I have travelled with them . . .
I struggle to find the money but now I can look forward to Christmas and plan for it, instead of dread it and hope I will find a home this year. Yep it still hurts, sure it does, but I have a real sense of belonging on the coach trips . . . we do Christmas together like a family and it’s healing and great fun too!
So many people say “oh please take me with you, I am so jealous” . . . little realising that I struggle to not be jealous of their family Christmas . . . . it’s a funny ole life sometimes!!
And this year I’ve done Christmas without the obligatory religious content. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not out of rebellion but it’s just how things have worked out this year that I have not been able to get to any carol or Christmas services at all . . . Jesus is the centre of my life, and He’s the centre of my Christmas. I always sing happy birthday to Him on Christmas morning . . . . . . there was a time when it would have been considered sacrosanct to not be in church over the advent and Christmas period . . . . but then that was it was all about religion and being seen to do the right thing . . . Jesus is the reason I celebrate Christmas because of what He has done for me . . . if I manage to get to church great, but if I don’t it’s ok. and it’s actually quite liberating to feel ok about that!!!
Happy Christmas Jesus!!!! My ever present companion without whom I would be sunk and have no reason to live. Thank you Jesus for all you have done for me and helping me cope with Christmas and put you at the centre of it.