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Christmas: let's find the heart of the season

Whatever our Christmas rituals, let’s discover the richness of celebrating Jesus’ birth, says author Amy Boucher Pye ...

Whatever our Christmas rituals, let’s discover the richness of celebrating Jesus’ birth, says author Amy Boucher Pye ...

Our first Christmas as a married couple, my first in Britain, I tried to replicate exactly what was happening with my American family back in Minnesota. I had never missed a Christmas with them before.

There my mother’s German roots informed our celebrations, with the main event happening on Christmas Eve. In the early evening we’d go to church, and afterwards we’d either dive into opening presents or we’d enjoy our traditional meal of homemade chicken-noodle soup.

But now that I had married a minister, for whom Christmas was a working holiday, the expectation of a guaranteed snowy celebration evaporated.

That first Christmas Eve, Nicholas and I were on our own in our new curate’s home in Surrey. I hadn’t ever made soup from scratch before, and although I followed the steps of the recipe, it was a disaster.

After eating a spoonful, I burst into tears. The frustration over my failed cooking attempt highlighted my deeper pain at not being with my parents, siblings, and adorable five-year-old niece and three-year-old nephew.

What had I done in coming to this country?

That disastrous first batch of soup, and the poignancy of trying to create everything just like it was in Minnesota, changed the way we approached Christmas Eve in the years that followed.

Now each year we host a big Christmas Eve dinner, inviting some people we know well, some we’re just getting to know, and some who might not receive many other invitations during the holiday season.

Incorporating the key parts of my Minnesota’s family into our Christmas celebration has brought richness and meaning, I hope not only to me, but to my family and our guests.

We also, of course, celebrate in a British fashion as we enjoy a roast turkey lunch on Christmas Day. And we never miss the Queen’s Speech before opening some of the presents.

This pattern of celebration has become our norm, and our children can’t imagine Christmas in any other way. But family practices can change in a flash, and we never know when the next holiday will be the last “normal” one.

When our culture views Christmas with a standard of perfection – we need a day with no conflict, but happy families, with no one missing from the table – we can feel disappointed when we can’t achieve that state of joy and contentment.

I suppose this longing for completeness hearkens back to the true meaning of Christmas. That cute little baby born in dire circumstances was both man and God. He came to live on earth and then to dwell among and in his people.

During Advent we’re waiting for the coming of Jesus, not only to celebrate his coming to earth as a baby, but as we yearn for his coming again. That second coming when he will wipe all the tears from our faces; when he’ll make the conflicts cease; when he’ll heal broken hearts and release us from our crushing disappointments.

We’ll be completely well; fully human; totally overcome with joy and reality and the fullness of life.

And although we long for his second coming, we celebrate his coming to earth at Christmas, ushering in his kingdom of light and love.

Jesus is born in our midst, and we welcome him. We ask him to invade our cells, bringing healing; to shape our emotions, that we may show love; to impart peace as the Prince of Peace; to show us how to party as the giver of new wine.

Whatever our Christmas rituals, may we know the love of the Christ child who makes all things new and brings to us his creativity, joy and peace.

  • Amy loves running the Woman Alive book club and has written Finding Myself in Britain (Authentic, £9.99) from which this article was adapted. She blogs at, where you can download a free chapter.

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