It’s the week before Christmas, and all through the house, everyone is scurrying, to get that last Christmas “mouse” (or whatever gift is left to purchase). OK, not the best of Christmas poems, but a start nonetheless. Do you have special Christmas traditions and memories that highlight this season of the year? I do, and would like to share a few with you today.
I must admit that while we still lived in Ohio, we did not do very much in terms of outside decorations for the house. Oh, we always used the weekend after Thanksgiving to get out the tree (or go get the tree), and decorate the inside, but outside decorations beyond changing the lights on the vine tree on our porch, we did not do too much that way. Today, I don’t quite remember why we did not, but we just didn’t.
Since moving to Florida we attempted to keep that tradition of not decorating outside alive and were successful at that for about one year. But after being here for a year one of our neighbors, who happens to be a “snowbird” made the comment to my bride that, “It sure would be nice if the people who live here year-round would put up some Christmas lights outside their homes. It would sure make this street a lot more festive.” Ever since she made that guilt-inducing comment, we have indeed put up outside lights to welcome visitors to our neighborhood. And it has become quite an enjoyable task for us to do so.
But thinking about the why of outside decorations, it is difficult to find the true origin of that tradition. Growing up, I always thought that the reason my father struggled to put up the lights on the house at Christmas time was so Santa Claus would be able to find our house on his annual trek through the skies on Christmas Eve. That was nice, but…
But now, every year, shortly after Thanksgiving, we still pull things out of the attic (and hope they have not melted through the hot summer months up there), and generally I decorate both outside and the tree inside. The older we get the less we pullout though. But every year there is a box that I pull out which contains the decorations of our children and grandchildren. These are the treasured memories of Christmas. As I put each one on the tree, I say a short prayer for that individual, that God will bless them this year and that this season would indeed be a season of joy for them.
Every year on Christmas Eve, since our children have been little ones, the inner chef in me has come out and I enter into that strange place called the kitchen and attempt to make the Christmas Eve meal for our family and all who will take their lives into their own hands and join us for that dinnertime meal. I make the same Christmas stew which I have made for as long as I can remember, and we all sit down to enjoy the fruit of that effort. Most of the time it tastes pretty good.
After that dinner, we often go to a church service then come home and open our gifts. It is a relaxing and enjoyable evening with family and friends.
On Christmas Day, we traditionally enjoy a relaxing day, although at some point during the day we will celebrate “the birthday of Jesus” with a birthday cake and some ice cream. In years past, when we have been with our extended family, there was always a touch football game and perhaps even a marathon jigsaw puzzle assembly contest. Nowadays, there is always a golf game as well.
One Christmas tradition we have developed since moving here six years ago is the tradition of a Christmas brunch with our neighbors. Several of our neighbors will be here through the holiday season without any family members joining them. We invite them into our home on the morning of Christmas for an enjoyable Christmas meal together. Most of our neighbors are not regular church-goers, so this becomes an opportunity where we get to discover together and anew the real reason for our Christmas celebrations. In a sense, we have adopted them as part of our family.
The older I get, I am discovering that it is easier to lose the memories we have tucked away over the years and hidden in the many recesses of our hearts and minds. Christmas is a time to rekindle those memories as we handle each ornament, read each Christmas card, and recall the past Christmases we’ve celebrated through the years.
But the most special memory of all, which is one we never want to forget, is to rediscover the memory of God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ.
“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” – Galatians 4:4-5
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” – John 1:9
No matter what traditions we have, they all pale in comparison with the love God showed for us in sending His Son on that very first Christmas. Let’s not forget that tradition.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides ini Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].