What’s your tradition?
One of the things I love most about this time of year is hearing the details of others’ varied Christmas traditions. Between the shuffling in and out of the church on Christmas Eve last Saturday, I chatted with all sorts of people—some attending alone, others with lots of extended family in tow. And nearly everyone expressed some excitement for whatever their particular Christmas plans might be.
A family with teenagers talked about how they always head home after church and watch a Christmas movie together. Some younger kids were looking forward to changing into their new matching pajamas and leaving a note for Santa before they went to sleep. Still others were eager for their Christmas Day meal the next day—I heard about everything from lasagna to prime rib to take-out Indian food.
Some adults recalled family rituals from when they were younger. I could almost watch them pause, even briefly, to reflect and remember those who were no longer there to help carry on such traditions. A few others were going to try out new Christmas customs. A change in family dynamics sometimes meant this was the year of getting creative with a fresh perspective on how to go about present opening or meal sharing.
The bottom line is this: everyone celebrates Christmas just a little bit differently. Thankfully, the joy & peace promised to us in the gift of Jesus’ birth remains consistent throughout time. It never changes from year to year. But the way in which we mark the occasion or choose to acknowledge this holy day may vary greatly from person to person or family to family.
To me, this seems like such a perfect representation of what it means to be a community of faith. Not just on Christmas, but all year long, we gather together as people longing for connection and deeper meaning. People from all walks of life, holding endless different perspectives and values and experiences, all come together in one place where everyone belongs. We don’t have to believe the exact same things or participate in the exact same ways or even have the same traditions in order to know the same Good News is true for each and every one of us.
God’s love and grace and compassion transcend the beautiful diversity that makes up our Church. And then we’re encouraged to follow suit. No matter the season, we get to see our differences as something to be embraced and discovered. At Christmas or on any given day, God never asks for strict conformity. Instead, this is the perfect time of year to take note of our distinct differences and celebrate that we’re all beloved children of God.