When I was a child, Christmas carried many special associations: the smell of winter in the air (not snow though, not in El Paso!), the clandestine shopping trips my mother would go on, the Sears catalogue, school vacation, watching Christmas shows together, decorating the house, putting up the tree, going to church… The kinds of memories which many of us hold from growing up in stable and loving living situations.
We have a chance to create long term memories for children and families who may or may not have the stability required to establish positive family or community traditions. Christmas time is often marred by tragedy or crisis. We always know families who are homeless come Christmastime. One year one of our families lost their home to a fire days before Christmas. Some families “postpone” Christmas because there is not enough money for food and presents. And most tragically, for many the true meaning of Christmas escapes them entirely as they are left on the outside looking in at a society for which Christmas is all about commercialism and consumerism, demarcating once more the sharp stroke in our society between the haves and the have nots.
I love this time of year because it is an opportunity to share the joy of Christmas ensconced in Christ’s birth. As we have been diligent in fomenting memories for our children in our family life, we are intentional about establishing traditions and customs that point to Christ in our church family. We prayerfully hope they all remember as they grow older…
I hope they remember singing Christmas carols at church and my special twist on “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. I hope they remember the advent ceremony with the different colored candles and scripture reading and prayer. I hope they remember the annual church Christmas party where everyone shows up: kids away to college, kids that have grown up and sometimes bring families of their own, basketball team kids, volunteers, young people I have mentored, camping buddies, and people you saw a few days ago and those you haven’t seen for years. I hope they remember all the good food Lisa puts out, the family games she leads us all in and her special brand of welcoming hospitality. I hope they remember Christmas dinner; Lisa’s jambalaya or my personal favorite, enchiladas con espinacas. I hope they remember opening gifts by the Christmas tree. I hope they remember my telling of the Christmas story, each year the same, potent in its simplicity.
I hope they remember Christ and the sense of unity and togetherness we experience in Him. I hope they remember the sense of family and belonging that extends past the season throughout the entire year. I hope they remember the connection we have with one another, as God builds us together into His temple, Jesus Christ being the cornerstone, in which God Himself may dwell by His Holy Spirit. I hope they remember, and pass on and recreate these experiences with their own families and communities.