I like my Christmas traditions.
I don’t particularly care for change.
Last Christmas my traditions changed. Whew. It wasn’t a major cataclysmic change, rather the culmination of a process over the last few years.
We began transitioning to the “empty nest” when our oldest moved out of state. Then when our son married we told him we wanted to see him and his wife (now family) sometime during the Christmas holiday season but it didn’t have to be on Christmas day itself. Finally our middle child moved to her own place. Only she returned for Christmas …
..until she met a young man and got married.
So we faced our second Christmas without any of our children home for the day itself. Since my wife occasionally visits a pen-pal in a state correctional facility, I suggested we could surprise her friend with a visit on Christmas day. Actually, my wife would visit and I would drive. What better day to visit someone in prison than the day we celebrate the birth of He who told us to visit the prisoners.
Our son’s church has a service on December 23rd so the church community could spend Christmas Eve with their own families. My tradition of a Christmas Eve service with my family is no longer in effect.
So, last year we attended the service with our son’s family and then the two of us attended a nearby Christmas Eve service. After which I broke my crowning Christmas tradition. Instead of exchanging gifts Christmas morning we exchanged them Christmas eve so we could get an early start on the three-hour trip to the correctional facility.
While my spouse visited I found a fast food restaurant, which was open Christmas morning! I read, worked on a craft, and played games on my phone before returning to the prison to get my wife for our return trip.
She was hungry so we found another restaurant open and ate a quick lunch. When we were on the road again I commented. “It doesn’t feel like Christmas.”
Indeed it was a Christmas season unlike any other. Yet, as I thought about my off-handed remark I realized that I may have never understood what Christmas felt like.
My “feelings” about Christmas came from family traditions, many of which are healthy, positive, and faith affirming. But they are feelings centered in my family and happy memories. My faith, though, provides a different perspective.
Christmas is about God entering the human race and walking with us. He came to bring us into a life transforming relationship. A relationship in which our values cease to revolve around “us” and those things which make “us feel good.” He enables us to ground our values in the loving God, who has our best interests in mind in all He does.
So taking time at Christmas to radically reorient the way I celebrate the season and make it a time of service to others – may actually be the real “feeling” of Christmas.
To express God’s love and follow the example of Christ is how Christmas should feel.
“It doesn’t feel like Christmas.”
…I felt Christmas for the first time.