The Traditions of Christmas Past

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Christmas Traditions

As I sat down across the table from my three girlfriends, I took a big mouthful of salad and began munching the crisp greens with big bites of tomato. The food was amazing, the conversation lively, as Kathleen giggled about something, but I couldn’t push my nagging thoughts aside. “I need help,” I began.

My tradition had started at age 12, what seemed like a few, short decades ago. The pastor at the new church plant handed me the worn out hymnal. I remember him crouching down to my eye level and saying, “Tag, you’re it. There is no one else to play. Go home and start practicing.” Every Christmas song was practiced diligently each day after school. I would be prepared for the Christmas Eve service.

As a child, even younger than age 12, I had always helped to prepare a magical Christmas Eve for my family. I chose the music, planned the drama, picked the poetry, and eloquently, for a small child, delivered the traditional family Christmas program with my two siblings.

The years passed by, and when I became a Director of Worship & Creative Arts, my children would groan, as August would bring the traditional ritual of listening to Christmas music as I began preparations for the church services, filling them with awe and wonder, so to remember and celebrate the Christ Child’s arrival. The calendar was pushed, pulled and stretched to the umpteenth degree, packing every day with baking, rehearsals, building and painting drama sets, parties, caroling, and much preparation for the services.

Now, with my new position as Executive Director of Best Life, and our first conference not scheduled until January, I perused my calendar. Nothing. Then, more of nothing. Oh, good, there was a dinner on that one Saturday evening, and a concert on another. Then…..nothing. I desperately picked up the phone and called good friend, Kandy. “What do people do for Christmas? What are the Christmas traditions that your family has?” I asked. Kandy proceeded to tell one of her fabulous stories that she seems to always pull out of the dresser drawers of the closets of her mind. She listed many traditions and went on to talk about the overwhelming feeling the family had with too many traditions. She told how they picked and pared down, now feeling very satisfied to be simplistic in their celebration. “It seems time to create something different. Instead of looking at this time of year as a time of feeling lost, it’s time to find some new traditions,” I cheered myself on.

My friends continued to giggle around the table, but stopped abruptly when they heard me say, “I need help.” They took the next half hour to go around the table and recite the many cherished traditions of their own lives. The stories poured out, swirling about each tradition to substantiate its purpose. Cookie baking, sleigh rides, ethnic foods, reading the Bible story, enjoying family, and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” were just a few of the ideas that were relived. But as I listened to them, nothing seemed to click in my spirit.

Later that day, I looked out at the backyard as the snow began to gently fall. It glistened in the beautiful midday sun. I grabbed one of my favorite stories and curled up in my big stuffed red chair, grabbed my glasses and read….. “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

Mary and Joseph TravelI laid the book down now. There they were… traveling to a place they’d never been. Tired and weary from the journey, a mother, soon to deliver a child, is journeying ….uncertain of the future. But one thing she is certain of…she carries the Son of God within her belly. Mary and Joseph will celebrate His birth.

And suddenly, the anguish seems to subside. I no longer am struggling with how to make and bake, create and connect, perform and present. Instead, I’m just willing to be on a path that I’ve never been on before, journeying to the unknown. and certain of one thing…the birth that I celebrate will be the Son of God’s…..Hallelujah….the Savior has come!