I have long been a fan of tradition and celebrating the seasons.
As much as I adore autumn, I love the changing of fall to winter – pulling out decorations to deck the halls on the outside, while realigning my heart to prepare Him room on the inside.
I’m fairly new to the practice of Advent; I love both the heritage of how it’s been done through the ages as well as the grace to make it work in modern times in a culture bent on busy.
My Honey and I, we are empty nesters now and we’re finding the need to let go of some older customs as well as look for new ways to make memories that last and that count.
For the last few years, we started a new Christmas Eve tradition. We didn’t intend for it to happen, but once we did it, we knew we would never want to stop.
In the “olden days”, when our girlie was young, Christmas Eve meant a house filled with family. Gifts unwrapped, hors d’oeuvres and desserts galore, and games played loudly into the night. New pajamas and a late-night holiday movie would lull us to sleep after the guests left for home and the laughter died down.
But slowly, family moved away and girlie got a job. Soon our little nest was no longer filled.
Instead of mourning the loss of what used to be, we decided to embrace what is now by starting something new.
We began going to a Christmas Eve service at the church around the corner. My mother goes with us and our daughter, too, when she can. I can’t tell you what an unexpected gift it is to hear my Mama’s voice singing Christmas carols by candlelight by my side.
After the service, we drive around town, sipping hot chocolate or coffee and looking at all the twinkling festive displays of lights strung across lawns and over rooftops.
And then, the BEST part of the evening: We pray and head out to a restaurant for coffee and dessert.
The purpose of our dining adventure is less about visions of sugarplums dancing and more about gifts given.
We ask God where we should go and pray that He places us in the right section with His intended waiter or waitress.
We go with the intention of blessing our server on Christmas Eve.
We order something simple and pool the money we’ve been saving up. We pray over our offering and take turns deciding who gets to hand over the tip to a tired, usually less-than-happy-to-be-working-on-Christmas-Eve worker. And we watch the spirit of Christmas light up their face. The look of shock and disbelief is priceless.
The joy it brings us to be a blessing is over the top.
We have friends who do this at Walmart or the grocery store. They go with the intention of looking for single moms or overworked dads and they offer to pay the bill. Sometimes they go to the laundry mat or to the dollar store and they leave bills or coins all over the place. An anonymous blessing for the last minute shoppers or those doing chores on the night before Christmas.
Last year, our whole church caught the vision and many went out together for Christmas morning breakfast and gave an offering to their waitress. She was speechless and in tears, because who does that?
Here’s the thing: we can all do a little and a little adds up and can make all the difference – in someone’s holiday, yes – but also in their life!
Who will forget the kindness of strangers who met a need they did not know or who gave a gift so unexpected and extravagant?
How can we look beyond our kids’ Christmas wish lists and the traditions we usually observe to see where Jesus, the shining Star, may guide us this year?
Tried and true traditions are part of why we love the holidays, but let’s stay open to new traditions that God may be asking us to embrace! Let’s stay open and prepare Him room.