Question: what’s the most awkward moment you have encountered at Christmas?
It seems to me that a whole new set of awkward moments rise to greet us during the Christmas season. If you are anything like me, these are often addressed with horror and red-faced embarrassment. Below I have compiled together five potential situations – which may sound familiar – that could well give cause to such reactions, together with suggestions on how to avoid or respond to them. The list of situations is by no means exhaustive, and neither are the solutions full-proof. Further input from others would be most welcome.
1. The annual work Christmas party.
It involves a quiz and – lo and behold! – a question about our Lord’s birth crops up. Suddenly all eyes are on you, The Christian. Panic sets in and you begin to break into a cold sweat. The pressure is on.
Solution: needless to say, it’s worth swatting up on the key nativity accounts beforehand, so “keeping watch over” Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, plus Isaiah 7:14 and 9:1-7, may prove a “wise” move. (Sorry!) And remember, be wary of assumptions. The wise men (or magi) can be especially problematic. If you can cooly swoop in to correct any mistaken belief among your team that there were three of them – it’s not clear how many there were – or that they arrived on the night of Jesus’ birth – they arrived some months later – then that prized box of Celebrations could well be one step closer to your table …
2. The unwanted present.
Yep, we’ve all been there. The present you excitedly thought would be Michael Buble’s latest CD is in fact Busted’s comeback offering. Sadly you’re not quite the Busted fan. And to make things worse, the giver is intently watching your every unwrapping move to see your gleeful reaction. Alas, it doesn’t come and the disappointment shows.
Solution: I like to think Joey Tribbiani offers some help here. Kind of. You may recall the Friends episode where Rachel encourages him to practice his gracious loser face for if he doesn’t win a Soapie award. His rehearsal is good, convincing even. Sadly he does not quite follow through with it …
Like Joey, perhaps practice cultivating a gracious response, but just make sure you follow through with it. A frustrated fist-stomping reaction – or variations thereof – is not quite in the spirit of Christmas. Plus, you maybe surprised at how much you will come to like your unwanted gift. Give it a chance. Next year you may just be asking for concert tickets to see Busted.
3. The lonely this Christmas.
You’re in the office canteen or catching-up with a friend over coffee. Conversation turns to Christmas. It can be easy to assume that people have plans for the festive period and are looking forward to it, and our questions can reflect this. “What are your plans for Christmas?” Or: “Are you looking forward to Christmas?” we ask expectantly. Our face drops when we hear: “Nothing. Dreading Christmas.” Oh. This is exactly the response I had a couple of weeks ago when I asked a friend what his festive plans were.
Solution: it’s worth taking some time to think about those you know who may not be looking forward to Christmas. Perhaps they are alone, had a difficult year or lost a loved one. You can then form a question that is sensitive to their situation: “I know it’s been a really tough year for you. How are you feeling about Christmas and the new year?” It may even be best avoiding questions altogether. Either way, popping by their house to drop off a card and some mince pies will certainly bring some welcome festive warmth.
4. The chance to share your faith with a non-Christian.
Out of the blue, they mention a carol they love or their affection for attending midnight mass every year or ask what church events you have on this year. The surprise of it can sometimes leave us fumbling around for a coherent and effective response.
Solution: arm yourself. Go into each day praying – as we should throughout the year – for opportunities to talk about Jesus, and boldness to seize them. Carry around with you an invitation to your church’s Christmas services, or at least have in mind the details of when the services are. It’s also useful to have a list of resources that you can share or recommend, like a good YouTube video (this and this are good), a devotional, or a CD or song (this and this are good).
5. The carol chaos.
You are belting out Joy to the World. Knowing the words by memory, you close your eyes and get lost in wonder and worship. That is until verse two, line three. “While fields and streams, rocks, hills and plains,” you enthusiastically declare. Except everyone else sings: “While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains.” Wait, what? Floods? You let the mild embarrassment slip by until the next song. “Glorrrrrrrrria, in excelsis deo,” you just about sing before taking in a welcome gasp of air, only to find out everyone else singing the far more understandable: “Commmmmmmmme and worship Christ, the newborn king.” Now people are getting annoyed with you, especially the poor worship leader.
Solution: OK, it does pay to keep an eye on the song sheet or screen when singing carols because some do have varying versions. But if the worst does happen, rest in the lovely knowledge that God probably raising an affectionate smile in your direction. It’s all worship to Him. Smile, too, and carry on.
So, what about that awkward moment? Do share. And any tips to avoid/handle them would be of great assistance.