Christmas traditions have many origins. Nobody really knows who first had the idea of chopping down an evergreen tree, propping it up in their hut, and decorating it. The tradition of Silent Night was supposedly born when the organ in the the church of Obendorf, Austria broke down on Christmas Eve. Father Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics and Franz Gruber composed the melody to a carol that could be played on a guitar and has become a classic in many languages.
This year Laurie and I stumbled upon our own Christmas tradition that helps bring us closer to the true meaning of the holiday. Years ago we bought an Advent Calendar with 24 tiny little boxes, each containing a chocolate. Each evening, starting on December 1 we opened one of the small drawers and shared the treat. For several years after that we reused the advent calendar by finding small gifts to fill each drawer–not easy considering the 1.5 cubic inch size limit. Frankly, we didn’t feel it added much to the spirit of the season and soon abandoned it. However, this year we’ve altered the Advent calendar into a tradition that we feel reflects what Christmas is about.
Laurie has written a note for each even numbered day in the calendar and me for the odd numbered days (yes, odd is highly appropriate for me so those dates are mine by default.) We share our thoughts about the season in different ways. On one day I wrote a note asking in what areas I could be more Christ-like and less Dennis-like. She shared a note about how one of her co-workers almost choked to death at her office and was only saved by someone who performed the Heimlich maneuver. She reflected on how fragile life was and that we shouldn’t take each other for granted. On one day I offered her a choice of Christmas movies that we could play. I opted for It’s a Wonderful Life; I think she’s going to choose The Nativity. I do confess that we share a chocolate along with the little notes, but the notes have been the real treat.
I wrote my little missives before the beginning of Advent. It’s that project manager efficiency I guess. She’s chosen to write her notes about a week ahead to take advantage of what’s going on during the season. I think she made the wiser choice in this case.
Christmas is not about getting things. It’s really about reflecting on the amazing sacrifice that God began by sending his Son to earth in the form of a baby boy born to an obedient peasant girl and her faithful husband. I hope that you’ll take the time to develop or adopt your own traditions that reflect that sacrifice.
A favorite resource (especially for former skeptics like me): The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger, by Lee Strobel