Clergy families can find it difficult to connect with extended family at Christmas. We often live far from family, and we WORK Christmas Eve. Sometimes family comes to visit, and we come home after Christmas Eve services just wanting to crash when they want to celebrate. Or we travel on Christmas Day and arrive exhausted. Or we don’t see them at all at Christmas time.
Because of this, we have a unique opportunity to intentionally craft ways to connect with our families. Below are my suggestions and my hope is these get your wheels spinning so you come up with options that really serve you and yours.
Ask them what they remember about Christmases past. Whether you’re together or apart, this question inspires conversation. You can ask this of people in any generation-parents/aunts/uncles, sibling/cousins, or children of any age. You can do it before the holidays, on the day of, or even after. Whatever the timing, the conversation fosters connection.
Thank them for what you remember and appreciate about Christmas growing up, even if you have to think hard. If you are far away, write a letter (yes, on paper) and share your appreciation. If you had a difficult childhood, see if there’s one thing you can appreciate and share that. If you had a wonderful childhood, tell them. If your parents are gone, tell your siblings or cousins what you appreciated.
If you will be with family in person, take a different approach than you usually do. If you usually pull out all the stops and make a big Christmas dinner, announce you’ll be going out to eat. If you collapse in a chair and talk in monosyllables, engage with people (even if you are tired). One year I hosted Christmas and tried to do as little as possible. I found it incredibly freeing! And surprise, surprise, everything got done. My 85-year-old mother was happy to peel the potatoes.
What’s the purpose of this?
And what does it have to do with ministry?
Here’s the reason: We all learn how to relate to people (and holidays!) in the families we grow up in. We carry those patterns into our ministry. So…when you can develop a wider repertoire in your family of origin, you’ll have more choices in how you relate to others at church.
Let me know which of the strategies you try or create this holiday season. Think of it as a fun experiment.