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Family: The Christmas Challenge

girl-73630_960_720I’m not a risk-taker, never have been. You can ask anyone who’s known me since, oh, birth. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t appreciate those who are willing to step outside their comfort zone and take a chance. I do. In fact, I happen to be married to just such a person.

My husband, Mark, continually draws me out of my comfort zone. When we went to Acadia National Park for my 30th birthday, he convinced me to climb down the rocky terrain to get a better view of the ocean and lighthouse we had gone to see.

I fought him, listing all the reasons why it was dangerous, irresponsible, probably illegal (which it wasn’t) and, in short, just a really bad idea. He reassured me that it would be fine—and worth it. And you know what, he was right. The experience was exhilarating and the view even better.

A Challenge of Biblical Proportions

But what in the world does that have to do with Christmas, you might ask. Well, as a non-risk-taker, I often find myself drawn to stories of people who are willing to take that leap: people like Mary and Joseph.

I can’t begin to imagine the courage it must have taken for Mary to say yes to the angel Gabriel, for Joseph to go along with God’s plan, to leave their home—nine months pregnant, nonetheless—and travel to an unfamiliar town with no accommodations. Just ask Mark, who wisely kept quiet when I finished preparations for each of our four kids months before their due dates.

I wonder if Mary or Joseph had to gently pull the other one along, encouraging him or her to step outside their comfort zone, assuring that it would all work out O.K. For a moment, put yourself in their shoes. What would have been your role? Would you have gone along for the adventure?

Are You Up For It?

These days many of us are shielded from the struggles that Mary and Joseph faced. Because of that, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the tinsel and lights and gifts part of the holiday and skim over the nuts and bolts of the story. Much like a lot of things in our lives, over time and with repetition the meaning becomes lost.

So each year, I try—and often fail, I must confess—to remind myself to take some time and really reflect on the Christmas story and its implications in my life today. What things challenge me? How do I face those challenges? Am I willing to step outside my comfort zone for things I believe in or that are important to me? What role has faith played in facing those challenges?

When I approach the season through this lens, I usually find the Christmas story truly comes alive for me.

As we move through Advent toward Christmas, be conscious of the challenges you face in life and try to face them head-on. Dig a little deeper and reflect on the Christmas story through the focus of the challenges faced and overcome to bring us this most glorious celebration. Then go out and do things you never thought you could do. After all, Mary and Joseph did.

An Advent Calendar Twist

When I was younger, one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season was our Advent calendar. I remember rushing every morning to be the first to open the little window on the calendar and see what was hidden behind it. Some years it was a piece of chocolate, others it was a suggested activity for the day. The ones with activities were always my favorite.

So in line with the theme of this column, I’ve got a suggestion. Why not make your own Advent calendar this year? Behind each day, place one activity that takes you slightly outside your comfort zone. It could be something that you normally don’t eat. It could be an activity such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or a nursing home if you normally avoid those types of situations. Whatever you decide, make sure that the activities are reminiscent of Mary and Joseph stepping way outside their comfort zone on that first Christmas. After all, we are the recipients of the great gift their challenges brought us.