I’ve been blessed to grow up in a family who celebrated many traditions. I am reminded every year of one special tradition that always made Christmas for me. On Christmas Eve each year, my family went to my Grandparents for a family celebration. This was no small event. My relatives came from all over the country to spend Christmas together. After we had polished off the turkey and dressing, but before Santa Clause showed up, our family experienced the Christmas story. As my Uncle read from the book of Luke, we each played a part in the Christmas story. We began with Mary, decked in true Hebrew attire, (my grandmother’s bathrobe and a fancy towel) she came riding down the hall on a handsome Christmas donkey (aka my grandfather). Next, came Joseph, who was normally riding on the back of my father, the camel. The 4, 5, or 6 year old Joseph was not to be outdone by Mary. This was only the beginning. My Grandmother and Great Aunts sang Glory to God in the Highest while wearing fashionable garland as a halo. My uncles and older cousins brought gifts of Chocolate Covered Cherries, Red Hots and Candy Canes, as the three kings. My mother and aunts were shepherds who held yard sticks instead of staffs and herded the “sheep”, played strategically by my younger cousins. Baby Jesus was played by whichever child was newest to our family.
This family tradition was not short lived. For years we celebrated the birth of Christ with bathrobes and yardsticks, always ending with Joy to the World.
Now we are all older, spending Christmas’ farther from home. Like many of you this Christmas, I too am mourning the loss of loved ones. If we were to reinact that live nativity this year, my family would be missing a few key roles. Wise men, a donkey, and a few precious Angels would be absent. Although, I would rather have them here with me, I remember them every time the Christmas story is read. That is what tradition is all about. Remembering. Every time I make grandma’s homemade stuffing, I remember her. Every time we set out that certain set of dishes, I’m transported back to all of those Thanksgivings and Christmas’ that my family spent together. Traditions keep our loved ones alive in our mind and our heart. So this Christmas, as we reflect on Christ and all that His birth meant for us, let’s also celebrate those that the Lord has put in our lives today and the precious people that are no longer with us, but helped shape us into the people we’ve become.