Who is responsible in your home to make sure the Christmas traditions are actualized every year? In my home, my wife takes on the overwhelming and exhaustive task of making sure the many Christmas traditions are carried out.
She orders the 110 Christmas cards we send out, decorates our house with manger scenes, places stockings on the fireplace mantle (yes, Santa still fills my stocking every year with socks and candy) and assembles the Christmas tree. She purchases and wraps gifts for our children and my large extended family. She even buys my Yankee swap gift for the church youth group Christmas party and our gift as part of our church’s gift drive for the Hanover Visiting Nurse Association to help needy families. Her Christmas tradition implementation plan also includes cooking. On Christmas morning we have sausage and egg casserole and we then enjoy an eggnog pie because she wishes to honor the memory of my great-grandmother, who handed down this special recipe (recipe can be found at fcchanover.org).
I am only responsible for writing the short letter that is included with the Christmas cards, putting the candle lights in the windows of our home and helping Santa fill my wife’s stocking. One year I forgot to help Santa with the stocking task and 15 years later I am still regretting my mistake! Thank God I worship a God of forgiveness and second chances.
This year I am so thankful for the gift of those who work tirelessly to make sure the meaningful traditions of Christmas are put into action. I not only thank God for my wife, but for my mother who also makes sure everyone feels welcomed and loved at Christmas through the practice of family and sacred rituals. I thank God for the pastors I had as a child who taught me how singing Christmas carols, attending a Christmas Eve children’s pageant, and listening to the story of the birth of Christ told in the Gospels can be life transforming experiences.
Some of my colleagues wish Christmas could be focused primarily on the birth of Christ, and not the egg nog and all the gift giving. They contend that the meaning of the holiday is lost in the secular traditions. I agree in an ideal world Christmas would be a less hectic time of the year and all we would have to worry about was whether we got to the Christmas Eve worship service on time. However, I believe meaning can be found in both secular and religious rituals.
Secular Christmas traditions of making egg nog pie, sending out cards, and hanging stockings are important and meaningful. All these acts are ways of showing love to family and friends in concrete ways and bringing stability and consistency to a world which at times seems to be constantly changing.
Religious rituals are also critical. They remind us the God who created our world is a God of life and light, and God’s light ultimately overcomes all darkness. The scripture in the Bible from John 1:5 powerfully articulates this theological point when referring to the light of Christ, “The light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it.”
So on Christmas day as you enjoy your piece of eggnog pie and appreciate how warm your feet feel in those wool socks that Santa and Santa’ helpers put in your stocking, take a moment to thank God for those who worked tirelessly to make sure these traditions were part of your holiday.