Christmas with My Lutheran Family

Last week, my post fell on Christmas Eve, but I didn’t end up mentioning Christmas at all. That’s because for me, Christmas was far from over. I spent about a week at my sister’s and her pastor husband’s house with all my sisters and brothers-in-law and my mom. As you probably already know, Christmas, Easter, and everything else in the world, is all about Jesus for them. Let me tell you all about it….Sunday (Christmas Eve)

10:00 a.m. – Our first over-an-hour-long church service. Staying in the parsonage (the pastor’s house) means the church is within walking distance. So this was the first of many times walking back and forth…through the snow. To church. With a toddler. On a holiday.

4:30 p.m. – Our family is annoyed that there’s some random person who goes to our church but isn’t an LCMS member. And they dared to take communion! In our family, being a Christian isn’t enough–you mustbe LCMS!

4:40 p.m. – My mom complains about a family member who focuses her energy on bodybuilding and not on religion.

7:30 p.m. – Church service number two. My mom reprimands me for not singing and chanting out loud with the congregation. I say I don’t really like to sing and chant and she says it gives the words more meaning than just following along in my head. Also, one of the readings was Luke 2:1-20 (an account of Jesus’ birth) but Luke 20:1-20 was printed instead…. a parable about beating servants.

10:30 p.m. – The third church service of the day. At the identical evening services, they performed “O Holy Night” which I actually think is really pretty.

Monday (Christmas Day)

10:00 a.m. – You know when you wake up on Christmas morning to a time to be lazy and cozy with your family, have a yummy breakfast and some warm coffee, and exchange presents? Me neither. Instead I went to my fourth church service in two days. Even my oldest sister was complaining. To which I actually asked why she goes to church when she could just not. She responded that she just does and she just has to because her husband’s the pastor. It reminded me of what Frankie Heck said on this year’s Christmas episode of The Middle. (Did anyone else see that, by the way? What did you think about the leaving-the-faith storyline?)

5:00 p.m. – My nephew is speaking a lot of gibberish, including “ayah!” and “alah!” My fiance and I try to teach him to say “Allah!” just to annoy my sister.

10:00 p.m. – Everyone is in bed except for me and my fiance who are hanging out in the living room. Except, wait…. my mom is there too. Babysitting us because we might be tempted to commit a sin of the flesh on my sister’s couch. (And no, it wasn’t a coincidence that she was the last one up. She made a comment that she wanted to go to bed which means we need to go too because we can’t be downstairs alone.)


12:00 p.m. – Pastor-in-law: “Mind if I turn on some music?” My fiance: “Go ahead.” Pastor-in-law: *turns on the Lutheran Public Radio* … I can’t explain to you what this sounds like. You just have to look it up.

6:00 p.m. – There is a continuous argument (if you could call it that because my unchurched self is always doomed to lose) between me saying that after December 25th, Christmas is over, and everyone else saying that Christmas is just starting on December 25th. Of course I’m following a normal, secular calendar (I believe in a strict Black-Friday-to-Christmas-Day Christmas season) and they go by seasons of the church year in which Advent, which is Christmas for most people, is during the month of December, and the Christmas season spans from December 25th to January 6th. I don’t mind if at church, you go by that, but in real life, Christmas Day should be the climax and end of the season. But they apply it all the time. And I am automatically wrong because they have church on their side.

10:30 p.m. – My fiance and I have a(nother) really long talk with my oldest sister. The situation in July has not stopped creeping into almost any conversation we have. In short, my sister is really concerned that we don’t feel any remorse about having premarital sex and we don’t seem to view it as a problem. This leads to a whole new can of worms that can potentially ruin my wedding and which deserves its own post…stay tuned.

Wednesday (this may or may not be…my birthday!)

1:22 p.m. – We went out to lunch at my favorite restaurant. The usual gossip concerning drama about the time that my old pastor abolished the Divine Service comes up between my mom and pastor-in-law for the umpteenth time.

1:32 p.m. – Our whole huge family prays moderately loudly before our meal, in public, on my birthday. My fiance and I are both super embarrassed on behalf of our family. I hate it when my family prays at restaurants before we can eat (they do it every single time). I just want to apologize to everyone there for officially being the most annoying restaurant guests.

8:15 p.m. After “Happy birthday to you” comes the bonus verse: “May Jesus bless you; may Jesus bless you; may he bless you and keep you; May Jesus bless you!” Afterwards my fiance whispers to me that he didn’t sing along!


11:30 a.m. – I start reading Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator since I can’t read God is Not Great this month when I’m at home with family. Even with the pro-god books, I get nervous when family members like my mom and younger sister ask what I’m reading. As far as they know, I’m a rebellious college student who doesn’t care about religion at all. Even without knowing I’m an atheist, they have no idea I’m into arguments for god or anything like that at all. Surprisingly, though, I think my mom understands it to an extent, because we’re close and she’s known me for 22 years. She knows I’m “struggling with my faith” which is why I took apologetics class, which taught me nothing, which is why I would read a book of arguments for God’s existence. The only difference between that and the truth is that I’m not really struggling to believe at all.

2:00 p.m. – I spend three hours working on my Categories page with family members all around. Whenever someone would come near I would change the screen to pretend I was working on something else. Which is actually what I’m doing right now with this post as well. (If you haven’t seen my new page yet, check it out! Making it was quite challenging and I had to be a ninja.)


8:00 p.m. – Our family watches a Christmas movie 4 days after Christmas and the Is-Christmas-Over-Or-Not debate ensues. I do not watch, because Christmas is over.

9:50 p.m. – Sister: “What’s your favorite season?” Husband (pastor-in-law): “Of the church year? … Advent.”


11:36 a.m. – Trying to make New Year’s Eve plans with my fiance, younger sister, and mom. My fiance and I can’t be in my mom’s house alone while the two of them are at a movie because we could be tempted to commit the sins of the flesh. (I don’t know what she thinks we do in college when he has a car and his own apartment and she can’t watch our every move.) (more details on this here)


10:00 a.m. – The final church service of our trip. After that I get to go home and see my cat again!

So there’s my eight days of Christmas! Surprising as it may seem, it actually wasn’t that bad. My family are some of my favorite people and I think I do a good job of not letting religion get in the way of enjoying our time together!

Anyways, what did you do for Christmas? Did you go home to a religious or non-religious family? Do they know, or share, your beliefs? Let me know in the comments!

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18 Replies to “Christmas with My Lutheran Family”

  1. With all these services is there any pageantry or beautiful art work to concentrate on, say like in a Catholic service?

    Speaking of Catholics, they do not allow non-Catholics to receive communion either.

    Sorry, I had to giggle at the misprint.

    Is “O Holy Night” pretty as sang in your church, or would you prefer Josh Groban?

    Thank goodness for cats. Mine’s a god, well sort of, well really not.

    For Christmas I posted “What Can Christmas Mean to an Atheist?” @ That was a few days before. I spent a very nice day with my girlfriend of over thirty years, Bette. We opened are presents after which I fixed breakfast. Then, I baked my second apple pie (the first was the Christmas before). These and one other pie (strawberry) I have made was with half lard / half butter for a lattice top crust. Bette wanted a full turkey dinner because we did not get one on Thanksgiving, so I made that too. After dinner we ate some pie. As I said it was a very nice day.

    Nice post as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a few stained glass windows, but they have never impressed me much. And their O Holy Night is usually pretty good; it’s one of the only things about that service that I really like.

      It sounds like you had an amazing secular Christmas! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Four Church services??? For the love of science I couldn’t handle that! For me, Christmas was pretty secular. Present giving, Champagne and ice cream breakfast and looking at Christmas lights on houses, yeah people get quite competitive with that over here. Oh and no church services! I think most of my family is secular now though, so the few religious people can’t force their way with everybody else.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm…doesn’t sound like a barrel load of laughs. I think you need to start setting some rules for the people around you. Number one being that your sex life is out of bounds for your sisters, no negotiating – end of. My Xmas (notice ‘Xmas’ rather than ‘Christmas’) was mostly secular, except when my brother-in-law, over from Sydney with his daughter (16, and forced to go to a Catholic school), asked what I do if anyone sends me a religious Xmas card. I told him I take them outside and ceremoniously set light to them. Oh, and I seem to remember making at least one unguarded comment, in front of the girl, about god being a fictional character. I felt she needed a break from the indoctrination – a different point of view. She took it in her stride – I don’t think she’s the committed Christian her mother would like her to be! lol! ;¬]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is so good of you to go through this for your family. I know your family loves you and wants the best. Even though it was a long period of time you did not enjoy, you did a very ncie thing. For me, I grew up in the church system and have seen so many similar religious acts that I grew tired of it. I personally think christianity is not so much about church activities and religious acts as it is following the example of Jesus in loving God, loving people and being less judgmental and non-condemning of others who see things differently. Anyway, good for you for spending the time with your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow. What fun. I laughed out loud at the thought of teaching the nephew to say “Allah”. I think that would be hilarious.

    To answer your question at the end: No, I spent the holidays alone at my home. My mother is a loony Jeebus nutjob and literally can’t have a single conversation without attempting to convert me. (“Where are the plates?” “Praise God, they’re in the upper left cabinet.” Seriously.)

    I enjoy my time alone, reading, watching Netflix, or skimming the internet. It’s certainly better than religious claptrap.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ugh, sounds like the season was a lot more stressful for you then it was enjoyable. I’m not really exactly sure what to say here that hasn’t already been said. All I have is that your powering through it and that one day you’ll be able to look back and roll your eyes a little because of it. Hope you and everyone else has a happy new year. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. John Piper once complained about muscular women, he felt that they were becoming more and more masculine, and losing their femininity. He feared that men would treat them more manly and less womanly, saying: “The more women can
    arouse men by doing typically masculine things, the less they can count on receiving from men a sensitivity to typically feminine needs.” So it’s a good thing you picked up on it – you can count on hearing more and more complaints about unfeminine women in most religious circles in the years to come as an extreme reaction to our culture’s changing views on gender and gender roles.

    Like Thanksgiving, when it came time for the prayer, I played my part – closed my eyes and bowed my head – but I just wasn’t feeling it. I still enjoyed spending time with my family. We’re just not big on it much anymore – we’ve put up with so much issues from church and we haven’t attended one all year. We’re never the sort to pray over each meal, and we’d never make a point of it to pray in public anyway. For those of us who have much faith left, it’s always a quiet thing between the believer and God. I think back to when I was younger and before I felt that the church had betrayed me – and I don’t think I could have found a single fault. But having attended quite a lot of churches in my time and seen some of the antics they get away with – it’s harder to pretend that all is right with the church when you know that sometimes they’re the guilty party. Sometimes I miss that feeling of certainty – but then I remember how unstable it was and like a bubble – it didn’t last forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Our family is annoyed that there’s some random person who goes to our church but isn’t an LCMS member.

    That brings back memories.

    I was a grad student from half way around the world. I was already questioning my faith, but was not yet ready to give it up. So I attended a neighborhood church, instead of the on-campus services. And I felt as if I was seen as a random person who did not belong in that church. There was no attempt to welcome me. I kept up church attendance for around three months. And then I ditched religion.

    I guess I should be thankful for that “random stranger” treatment, because it helped me make a difficult decision.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. the parcenage

    That’s a really interesting spelling. But I think you mean “parsonage”.

    We used to call it “the manse”, because our pastor didn’t use the term “parson”.

    (I normally don’t comment on spelling, but your spelling was so interesting.)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi, and thank you for being so candid about your experiences. I really enjoyed reading this post especially. I completely understand the concerns about coming out as an atheist. I only recently, back in October, came out as an atheist and it truly made a lot of things difficult. I am not only in a family of ultra-conservative fundamental baptist, but I am also married to a Christian. Fortunately for me, my wife is not fundamental, but coming out was still difficult for her, and she is still processing through it. Anyways, I just wanted to share that I hear, and feel your struggle, and I am hopeful for you for this new year. While I lost a lot of people in the process of coming out, including a fractured relationship with my parents, I gained so much more. All the best, Billy

    Liked by 3 people

  11. It just doesn’t seem fair for you to have to live this double life with your family. I get why you are doing it, I really do. Still, following your journey through this is a little heartbreaking.

    Do you believe that your family would disown you if they knew the truth? I assume mom would be angry, but that anger would come from disappointment and worry and a sense of failure on her own part. But would she wash her hands and have nothing to do with you? I hope not.

    Have a great New Years!

    Liked by 1 person

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