Photo by Elissa Eubanks / AJC

This is one of my favorite Christmas pictures. It was taken by Elissa Eubanks, who works for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It just seems to make the season a little more real.

Sure, we all love to imagine the larger-than-life, all-knowing, mystical Santa who can travel everywhere on the planet in a single night. But I am drawn to this guy for a different reason. He has more of a relatable nature than the traditional Santa. I love the fact that He is standing here without his flying reindeer, magical elves, or enchanting toyshop. I actually think I could have a meaningful conversation with this guy. The potential story behind this image stirs up a host of questions I would love to ask him.

“Did you have to lay off some elves because of the economy?”
“Do you always iron your own clothes?”
“Does Mrs. Claus ever get annoyed with that laugh?”
“Have you ever stepped in reindeer poop?”
“So really, do you ever get tired of this job?”

I just really wanted to remind you that Christmas this year might look different than what you imagined. An over-romanticized view of Christmas can actually get in the way of having meaningful time together. If what really happens this holiday doesn’t conform to your picture of an ideal Christmas, you might get so discouraged that you miss the real meaning of the season. I have a number of friends whose Christmas picture will look different this year than what they thought it would be:

A cousin who is fighting an aggressive stage of melanoma cancer
A husband and wife of twenty plus years who are going through a separation
A close friend who is still looking for a new job after several months
A young couple who is spending the holidays at the hospital with their down syndrome newborn.

When you pull out your camera and take your Christmas pictures, pause long enough to look closer at the faces around you. Every face connects you to a bigger story. Simply decide it’s okay if the pictures are not as perfect as you hoped they would be.

Christmas is not really about the magic and beauty of a season where all of your dreams come true. It’s actually about the deeper meaning that we can rediscover for ourselves and our family. Remember there is an incredible story going on that is more important than the glamour and glimmer of the Christmas décor. A real child was born two thousand years ago so that His story of restoration and redemption could become a part of our everyday lives.

Whatever happens this season, look for real opportunities to demonstrate the peace, forgiveness, and grace that Jesus came to give you. Don’t get so lost in your picture of what Christmas should look like at your house that you miss the bigger story of what God wants to do in the next chapter of your life.