Thursday, December 15, 2011

Changing Traditions

I’ve done some thinking this week about past Christmases. I have always loved the Christmas season. Truth be told, I enjoy all of it. Obviously, as a pastor, I love the stories found in Matthew and Luke about the incarnation of our Savior. But, I will admit, and it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, I suppose: I love the mythology that has been built up around Santa and the elves and the reindeer and all that. There really isn’t a thing about this season I do not like… except for crowded stores, perhaps. But Amazon.com has taken that problem away for me.

So as I reflect upon Christmases of the past… I only have fond memories: Helping my family put up the Christmas tree. Playing under and in the Christmas tree. (It represented a whole new Endor-like battleground for my Star Wars toys… and each new colored light encountered by my action figures would have a different effect on them… green would weaken the good guys… blue would make them slower… and so on and so forth. Yes, I am a nerd.)

I have fond memories of Christmas at my home church… in the early years it was being involved in Christmas children’s musicals and plays. In my teenaged years, it was going to a big production the church put on called ‘Creative Christmas.’ The constant in all the years was attending the Christmas Eve Candlelight service… which was incredibly formative to me. So formative, that I refuse to NOT offer a Christmas Eve service as a Lead Pastor. I want my kids to grow up with memories of a darkened sanctuary slowly being lit up with the soft glow of candles and for them to be able to connect that image with the idea that Jesus, the True Light, has entered the world.

I was also thinking this week of how much Christmas has changed for me. Ask me 15 years ago what my Christmas traditions were… and I would run down a list of things that no longer play out in the same way. I no longer open Christmas presents with my parents on Christmas morning. I no longer visit my Grandma Sands’ house on Christmas Eve. I no longer attend Heritage Church’s Christmas service offerings. And while I no longer participate in those traditions exactly… I have found joy in establishing or participating in new traditions.

Getting married almost 14 years ago opened me up to a whole different set of family traditions. Having children of my own has opened up many different avenues of traditions that are incredibly satisfying to me. Each new church that I serve with has their own set of traditions that I have enjoyed tapping into. I suppose it could be easy to get discouraged because I don’t get to go to my Grandma Sands’ house on Christmas Eve anymore. But on the other hand, I have the privilege of facilitating a Christmas Eve service at my current church… and then going out to eat with any family who happens to be in the area. And of course, the late night of wrapping the Santa gifts for my kids.

Christmas represents a small microcosm of life for me. Things are constantly changing: Circumstances; people; family dynamics; and yes… even traditions. So rather than mourn over lost traditions in the past… I choose to embrace and even find joy in the new established traditions. I do not ever want to be the person who throws a pity party because a particular tradition has changed or shifted. I want to embrace each Christmas for what it has to offer… regardless of how young or old my children are… regardless of which family members I get to see on which days… regardless of whatever circumstance comes.

And yes, I know… eventually I won’t have my five year old son to use as an excuse for why I still play with my Star Wars toys in the Christmas tree… but I’ll cross that bridge when it arrives… for now, I’m going to fully enjoy this year’s rendition of the Christmas season…

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