I received a piece of mail recently that really made me think. It’s a colorful catalog of children’s gifts featuring all kinds of lovely holiday presents. Notice I said “holiday” because that is the title in big white letters on the catalog’s cover, “HOLIDAY TRADITIONS”. In tiny, hard to see, red letters under the company’s name is printed “christmas 2018.” Notice the small letter “c.”
I perused the catalog carefully, looking for the “holiday traditions” that were offered for sale. There were lovely Christmas stockings to fill, snack plates to hold cookies for Santa, and all kinds of whimsical Christmas tree decorations. Nowhere in the catalog was any reference to the birth of Jesus—the reason for the season—not a manger, not an angel, not a shepherd. In fact, the only star I could find was a red sugar-sprinkled cookie on the cover. Plenty of reindeer, Santas, and snowmen, but no Jesus!
What I get from this omission is the thought that in establishing or keeping “Holiday Traditions” people are encouraged to keep such traditions as giving gifts on Christmas, putting out cookies for Santa, and hanging stockings by the fireplace mantle. Now I’m certainly not against these things. In fact, I am a gift-giver, and also a former stocking-stuffer, and Santa cookies and milk provider myself when my three kids were young. But as a Christian, the “Holiday Traditions” I encourage focus on CHRIST-mas, doing that which reminds us of the one whose birth it is we celebrate.
So I would recommend that each of us is intentional about establishing traditions that focus on Jesus. During Advent, attend Sunday morning worship during which the candles on the Advent wreath are lit reminding us of the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love that Jesus embodies. Come caroling to our homebound members and friends on Sunday, Dec. 16th. Certainly be present here for the beautiful 6 p.m. Christmas Eve service on Monday, December 24th .
And how about starting some mission and outreach traditions that honor the Christ child? Take an angel from our Angel Tree and buy a gift for a needy child, bring in donations of non-perishable food, reach out to someone who might be lonely . Be intentional about helping others in whatever way you can.
I share with you this quote from Seasons of the Spirit. “People of all ages find their attention being pulled in many different directions, especially as the voice of the marketplace reminds us that ‘the holiday season is upon us’ and counts down the shopping days we have left until Christmas. Observing the Season of Advent with its tones of longing, anticipation, and hope has the potential to redirect and ground us in the way of God.
May your Advent and Christmas be blessed and may your “Holiday Traditions” be centered in God’s great gift to the world, Jesus, the Christ.
In Christ’s love,
Pastor Candy Thomas
Christ Congregational United Church of Christ