Perhaps your Great-Grandma is crazy. If not her, maybe it’s your sister-in-law, your uncle, or your Dad. Holidays bring out the craziness. The stories are legendary. Everyone tiptoes around Grandma, trying not to set her off, whispering about her eccentricities, fixing her relational messes, setting things right. Everyone knows their role. It’s common knowledge.

Smugly, with my prideful, superior attitude, I grew up as a grandma-whisperer: “Here come the holidays. Let’s get ready to deal with her.”

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize how completely broken I am, to recognize that I am Grandma. New waves of comprehension wash over me with each passing year. It dawns on me with increasing clarity that the next generation is now smoothing out my messes, setting things right behind me, settling the kinks, and wondering about my sanity. I may be a bigger mess than Grandma. Now they whisper (text one another furtively) about my eccentricities.

Among all the other blessings of having children—including the sheer joy of knowing them, watching them grow, delighting in them, and taking pleasure in who they are—parenthood strips away the façade. It’s good to have our faulty view of ourselves corrected, the mask peeled back, revealing the real us beneath the surface. If you think you have it all together, have children. They see the real you with acute clarity.

It was an eye-opener when my own children strode into adulthood and surpassed me in faith, wisdom, and strength. In spite of my attempts at growth, my reading of Christian books and magazines, and my application of bullet-pointed growth strategies, I am still a fragile and broken creature. Without Christ, I am an utter wreck. Everything is broken: my communication skills, my problem-solving strategies, my peacemaking attempts, and my ability to love.

There’s something seductive about the idea that I can become flawless, kind, and emotionally whole through my own efforts and by the strength of my own will. I often think I can. Yet, even with God’s grace, my growth drags along, because I get in the way. I slow down the process.

  • I view myself through rose-colored glasses.
  • My pride hinders my acknowledgement of a problem.
  • I am slow to repent.
  • I need to relearn lessons over and over.
  • I forget to ask the Lord for strength.
  • It’s difficult for me to apologize.

My own flawed attempts at growth are part of the problem. I do it all wrong.

Nothing draws attention to this like the holidays as several generations attempt to coordinate get-togethers, love-fests of family unity around Christmas trees and fireplaces. We all want perfect harmony—no unsettled issues, no unresolved conflict, no disharmony. Rarely, if ever, do we get it.

This is why we make such a big deal about the incarnation of Christ, why we pause to stand amazed that God would want to be with us, that he would put on flesh to enter our mess, have a crazy grandma, and die a bloody death to pay for the wrongs of the whole sinful lot of us. We’re all nuts.

There is no hope without Jesus. We need a Savior. His redeeming love is a miracle.

Simply preparing for the festivities of honoring him reminds us that we’re totally broken without him. Our stressed-out, chaotic preparations reveal our need for his saving grace and his presence, providing us with unadulterated evidence of the true state of our very selves. Aside from the miracle of his passionate, I’ll-do-anything-to-save-you love, this alone is reason enough to celebrate the Savior’s birth: It allows us to see ourselves clearly.

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:3-5a NIV).

Every time holiday madness strikes, let it be a reminder of our need for Jesus. Let us thank him for his mercy. Let’s invite him to redeem even these broken attempts to celebrate the miracle of his kindness, love, and mercy.


How have the coming holidays opened your eyes to your own brokenness?


Middle Image:, smallest format. Bottom: Christ Messiah by Carl Bloch in public domain, Wikimedia Commons.