Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent 2013


             Rituals are those comfortable, enriching, memory-making actions which fill our lives with meaning, wonder, awe, and stupendous gratitude!  Never growing old or mundane, rituals are the outgrowth of tradition, necessity, creativity, and the desire to emphasize the intrinsic value, worth, regard, and respect for the event or person at the center of the ritual.  Regarding Christmas, the rituals are boundless!

             When I was quite young, about four weeks old (December 1952), it just so happened our brand-new church, organized in June of that year, had its first Christmas pageant.  They wanted a baby Jesus and, yes, you guessed it!  I am told, though I do not remember, there was a live baby -- yours truly.  Every year it was the ritual of this little church with the big heart to have the Christmas pageant followed by the arrival of St. Nicholas giving out fruit to everyone and stockings to the children.  It became our custom as a family to participate every year.  However, this writer never again was the baby Jesus.

My family was large (six children), and we had some necessary rituals for Christmas.  Everyone had to be up, dressed, and have eaten breakfast before being allowed into the livingroom to see what Santa had delivered.  The youngest always went first.  On the years when Christmas fell on Sunday we always went to an 11:00 a.m. abbreviated service of carols and sharing.

When my three children were small, there were several rituals we enjoyed as a family.  On Christmas Eve, the children's grandfather always read the Christmas story from Luke 1.  Several years my wife baked a birthday cake and we celebrated Jesus' birthday to help the children understand the true meaning behind Christmas.

After all of my siblings and I were married and had left home, my mother insisted we bring our family by her house to celebrate Christmas by giving gifts.  My mom loved Christmas!  After she died, we moved from giving each other gifts on a rotating basis to giving gifts to a sibling's charity of choice in their name.

In my current family, we attend Christmas Eve service and follow it with a special family dinner.  We seek to have as many family members present as possible.

Christmas rituals carry the hugely important task of keeping us focused on the gift of Christ and what that gift means to each of us and this world.  The gift of Christmas rituals is their ability to help us appreciate more fully our Lord, our faith, and the importance of the season of Christmas.  All the rituals become special investments in the memory books of our hearts and minds guiding us to the treasure-trove of God's steadfast love in Christ.

May you create and enjoy rituals this Christmas to continually bless your life!

- Will Barnes


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