When Christmas Eve Looks Different than Expected

Growing up, I loved Christmas Eve. We would gather at my grandparent’s house before dinner. Everyone was off work and life seemed to just stop for a bit. We enjoyed a good meal, took time thank Christ for what Christmas was really about, and opened presents from my grandparents. I especially loved that both of my parents were there—no work to think about…just time to sit and relax and be with family. 

Fast forward to Christmas Eve now. Four years ago, we moved to Arkansas where my husband serves on staff at a church. Every Christmas Eve, we have a service in a barn. It is really neat to gather in a barn and such a tangible way to share the Christmas story. But, this means A LOT of work and preparation. We bring in a small stage, set up lights, chairs, heaters, tables for hot chocolate and cookies, etc. After the service is over, a lot of time is also devoted to clean up and my husband usually doesn’t get home until after kids are in bed. 

Last year, I left the Christmas Eve service with our three children by myself. I remember driving home on the unfamiliar roads and I took a wrong turn.  I was trying to navigate my way back to familiar roads and I just started crying. I felt so silly, but I just wanted to all be together on Christmas Eve and knowing that would not happen as long as we had our Christmas Eve service was upsetting.  I came home to an empty house and began getting the kids something to eat. I was having a full-out pity party because things were not the way I wanted them. 

This is life, though, isn’t it? Things change and things are not always the way we envision. As I think back to the night of Christ’s birth, I’m sure things were not as Mary planned. Who would envision giving birth in an unfamiliar setting, let alone in a stable because no rooms are available? But Mary saw past her circumstances because this night was not about her—it was about the baby she was carrying. This child was born to die for us, to carry a burden we could not carry and to give us new life.

What if we looked beyond our circumstances to the greater good? Our Christmas Eve may not be glamorous or what we envisioned. Perhaps you are stuck at home with a sick child or you have to work or you are alone with kids because your spouse has to work.  But it’s a chance to change our perspective to see what God wants to do in our hearts tonight. How can you take what you’ve been given and use it for the greater good? So tonight may not look like it used to look for me on Christmas Eve. But that’s ok. Because tonight we get to celebrate in a barn with others who may not come to church otherwise. We get an opportunity to hear a message and turn our hearts to the real meaning of Christmas. I pray that you can find this same hope as you have your Christmas Eve-: that God would use you to love on your children or to wipe another sick child’s nose or to encourage your husband as he works the night shift. I’m so thankful for Christ’s sacrifice—that He saw past His comfort and chose to come down as a helpless baby to save us.

  • Amilee Sanders