We humans are forgetful creatures. The events and realities of yesterday pass out of our minds and hearts by the dawning of the day. The hard lessons lived and learned by one generation are repeated in the next. So we need to learn to remember just like any physical habit that we learn. And like learning to put on clothes, we must choose what to remember.
When one has heard the biblical story of Christmas year after year, it can fail to surprise, fail to move, fail to impress. Starts to sound a bit hollow perhaps? I can only speak for myself but something tells me I’m not the only one. It can be tough to sing and talk about joy and peace on earth when there is so much turmoil and destruction. So how do I remember without becoming cynical? How do words like faith, peace and love stay ringing true instead of becoming resounding gongs or clanging cymbals? It is my belief that we need new eyes to see and new ears to hear that we may understand the fullness and breadth of the stories we hear and the stories we tell. (Matt 13:26) The story of a baby in a manger is so much richer when we can see the big picture. The “Christmas Story” is not an isolated event, plucked out of history, given to us as a reason to find fuzzy feelings or to muster up our own ideas of goodness. Instead, it is one element in a great narrative in which we are now the actors on the stage. God’s story, beginning with creation, his plan, culminating in Christ, and ultimately his future have been given to us, so let us now remember it. In all the different ways, different traditions, let us remember why we remember. The story isn’t over. The story carries on. What was announced to the shepherds two thousand years ago is no less amazing and has no less meaning to our generation than theirs. The Kingdom of Heaven that Christ’s birth, death and resurrection brought into our broken and decaying world is as much a reality now as it was then and just like the star that led many men to find Jesus as a child we now are called to shine like stars among men, lighting the way to Jesus who is now on the throne. (Phil 2:15; Dan 12:3)
My family is starting some new traditions this year which I am very excited about. Our past traditions like decorating a tree, making gingersnap cookies, and listening to Nana Mouskouri are nice, but do not really have a strong connection to God’s story. The new traditions (I am hoping to share in detail once they are completed) are much more symbolic and have already given me opportunities to pass on the greater picture of God’s story to the kids. I love hearing about the traditions of advent from other families as well, so please pass along your ideas.