Oftentimes, the things we hold most dear in the present are those that are in some way tied to the past. As a kid who moved around a lot growing up, one who lived in that Wonder Years generation when family life was changing fast, I treasured the routines that were the same from year to year. Holidays always brought those touchstones—the snow globe with Santa in the middle; the wind-up music box with the three wise men standing, oddly enough, in front of a fully-decorated Christmas tree; the scratched-up glass ornaments my parents had brought home from Germany, where I was born. Opening that big Christmas box each year and bringing out my old favorites was magical. I loved sitting in front of the nativity set, imagining Mary and Joseph traveling along on a far-away, cold, dark night, seeking shelter.
When I gazed into the nativity, I imagined what it must have been like, how worried Mary and Joseph must have been when they couldn’t find shelter, how frightening and disappointing it must have been to give birth to a first child in a stable among oxen and sheep. Contemplating the reality of that night was, for me, a way of seeking the true light of Christmas, the miracle of a savior born in the humblest of circumstances.
As a mom, I’ve found myself in charge of forming and keeping the family traditions that (hopefully) slow down our busy family and help us to stare into the nativity and contemplate the wonder of it. Though I’m loathe to admit it, my husband and children do not always find these family traditions as important as I do. These days, I’m thinking maybe I need to find the Nativity App for iPad.
But one of the traditions we all love, one that focuses us and quiets us each Christmas Eve, is a trip to this beautiful old pioneer church for a candlelight service.
The church has not been modernized or wired for electricity, so it’s BYOF (Bring Your Own Flashlight), and the ancient wood stove may be struggling to cut the chill inside, but there’s nothing like the feeling of reaching the top of the hill on a starry winter night and seeing that little church in the distance with the golden glow of lanterns shining through the windows. You can’t help but think that Mary and Joseph’s arrival in Bethlehem must have been a little like this, the window lights flickering in the distance on a cold, clear night.
The Old Rock Church is a good Christmas tradition, I think. I hope that as the boys grow up, and Christmas finds them in other places—perhaps with the in-laws or tied down to grown-up jobs—they’ll think of this old church and remember that Christmas isn’t about shopping malls and bright lights, but about something that happened a long time ago, in a quiet little place that was nothing fancy. I hope they’ll develop Christmas traditions of their own, and that those traditions, like those evenings in the Old Rock Church, will help them focus on the truest light of all.
What is a Christmas tradition that is especially meaningful to you?
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