daily devotional

The Family: No Substitute This Christmas

Read Psalm 127:1, 3, 5

Throw another log on the fire—Christmas is upon us! The story of Bethlehem's Babe will be told again. We'll sing carols, return to the manger, and watch the bewildered couple as they caress their firstborn. We'll stand in awe of the young family for the umpteenth time...and we'll realize it never grows old!

Why? Because we've all known what it felt like to shiver on the frozen branches of our world, rejected, wounded, and scared...because we can all remember when we finally flew into the warmth of His love...and because we all yearn for the joy that a family can bring into our lives.

We simply cannot find a substitute for the family. God planned it that way. Nothing on earth comes close to the benefits derived from relationships revolving around our roots. Nothing.

Sometimes those family memories are absolutely hilarious. I think back to an incident around the Swindoll supper table years ago.

Before supper began I suggested to Curt (who was six) that he should serve Charissa (she was four) before he served himself. Naturally, he wondered why, since the platter of chicken sat directly in front of him...and he was hungry as a lion. I explained it is polite for fellas to serve girls before they serve themselves. The rule sounded weird, but he was willing...as long as she didn't take too long.

Well, you'd never believe what occurred. After prayer, he picked up the huge platter, held it for his sister, and asked which piece of chicken she wanted.

Being quite young, she had no idea which piece was which. So, very seriously, she replied, "I'd like the foot."

He glanced in my direction, frowned as the hunger pains shot through his stomach, then looked back at her and said, "Uh...Charissa, Mother doesn't cook the foot!"

To which she replied, "Where is it?"

With increased anxiety he answered (a bit louder), "I don't know! The foot is somewhere else, not on this platter. Look, choose a piece. Hurry up."

She studied the platter and said, "OK, just give me the hand."

By now their mother and father were biting their lips to refrain from laughing out loud. We could have intervened, but we decided to let them work it out alone.

"A chicken doesn't have a hand: it has a wing, Charissa."

"I hate the wing, Curtis.... Oh, go ahead and give me the head."

By then I was headed for the bathroom. I couldn't hold my laughter any longer. Curt was totally beside himself. His sister was totally frustrated, not being able to get the piece she wanted.

Realizing his irritation with her and the absence of a foot or hand or head, she finally said in an exasperated tone, "Oh, all right! I'll take the belly button!"

That did it. He reached in, grabbed a piece, and said, "That's the best I can do!" He gave her the breast, which was about as close to the belly button as he could get.

Fun. Hearty laughs and silly remarks dull the edge of life's razor-sharp demands. Families and fun go together like whipped cream on a hot fudge sundae.

Whether it's the fun of dinnertime laughter, the security of a father's strong arms, the comfort of a mother's gentle embrace, or the companionship of a sibling's listening ear, family provides us the opportunity for deep and meaningful encouragement. Pause a moment and meditate on Solomon's psalm:

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labour in vain who build it....
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward....
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. (Psalm 127:1, 3, 5)

Is the Lord really building your home? Do you view the kids as His gifts? Are you genuinely happy with your full quiver? Is it pleasant for the family to be with you?

Face it, my friend. When we allow the tyranny of the urgent—especially at this time of year—to siphon our tank of energy and interest so that the family is left with nothing but the fumes of broken promises and empty dreams, we are labouring in vain!

It isn't a question of "Am I building memories?" but "What kind?"

Why not spend this Christmas getting reacquainted with those folks who live under your roof, who eat at your table, who bear your name...and who make your family a living testament to the warmth and joy in the manger on that night 2,000 years ago. Remember, God planned it that way.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “The Family: No Substitute Will Do” in Come Before Winter and Share My Hope (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 292-94.