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When the Christmas You Got is Not the Christmas You Wanted

January 13, 2017

Another Way for week of January 13, 2017

When the Christmas You Got is Not the Christmas You Wanted

I’m still pondering the events of the past couple weeks. People ask, “Did you have a good Christmas?” As with the even more common question “How are you?”, people don’t really want or need the complete run down.

But where and when can you share some of the quiet and small disappointments that leave you leaning on bigger truisms such as “It could have been worse.”

Oh yes, lots worse. We had relatives who lost a beloved mother—too young—three days before Christmas. Locally, a house fire claimed lives of two kids the day after Christmas who never got a chance to finish growing up (ages 12 and 14). A fun and adventurous former colleague of mine (also with children who are maybe 9 and 12) is fighting for his life against a vicious and stubborn cancer. If there is anyone who is putting up a more tenacious cancer battle, it might be the pastor who has waged her war for 10-12 years, including a leg amputation.

My heart has been heavy with all these difficulties, let alone thinking of Syrian refugee children in Aleppo going through hell while the children don’t having any inkling of why they must suffer so.

Someone else’s suffering is just about always worse. I feel embarrassed at my own petty problems. The short version of our story is some of my grandchildren were sick to the point that it did not seem wise for them to travel to our house for Christmas as they had planned and longed to do all fall. Having a little one spend a day and a half in the hospital four to five days before Christmas and another son trekking to an emergency room on Christmas Eve in an ambulance is not how any of us want to spend the week before Christmas.

Still, it’s okay to name your own disappointments so you can deal with them and move on.

I know that dozens and even hundreds of families dealt with sickness at Christmas—usually the minor colds and flu that put a monkey wrench into plans. Avoiding bugs with little ones around is almost impossible. What’s fun is figuring out how to rescue plans and bring a bit of cheer to whoever has the biggest disappointment. In our case we ended up driving about five hours early on Christmas morning to get to our daughter’s in time to spend the better part of a day and half with her and her family.

Once we resigned ourselves to our change of plans, we focused on having as happy of day as we could. Long distance we figured out a menu that I could transport to them with mostly stuff I had on hand, and my daughter scurried out Christmas Eve to buy a turkey breast. It made me newly thankful for clerks and other workers who work late on holidays, not for procrastinators, but those who have to change plans.saminhospital

My daughter also mentioned her gratefulness for the hospital workers who cared for her five-month-old son Christmas Eve when they likely had families to be with as well, and also for the nurses and helpers who came around to the three-year-old grandson hospitalized earlier that week. They helped him “make” a gingerbread house (actually applying some of the frosting and decorations), and Sam even received a visit from members of a local professional basketball team. These kinds of wonderful good will gestures are made in every children’s hospital and pediatrics department all across North America, I’m sure. It has made me and my family much more mindful of those who are sick and suffering over the holidays—and those who take care of them.


So when we don’t quite get the holidays we planned and hoped for, thanking God for our blessings anyway is something I’m sure Mary and Joseph did too with their unexpected change of plans some 2000 years ago. I love the choice of words many versions of the Bible use in talking about all of the events leading up to and after the historic birth of Jesus. Luke 2: 19 says, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” We do well to do more contemplation on what’s important as we go through life.


How was your Christmas: great moments or disappointments? Email me at or write to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  


  1. Our Christmas was touched by sickness as well. On the 23rd my mom had to be taken to the hospital. But luckily she came home late that same night. Then on New Year’s eve my sister was hospitalized and she’s still there where they’re helping her get rid of a severe abdominal infection. She’s feeling much better now.

    • Thanks for sharing, Linda. Wow, you were truly hit! Hope your sister is doing better and that you mother is on the mend. Nice to hear from you.

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