Not long ago a friend asked me about our holiday traditions. I went back 40 years and remembered Christmas morning breakfasts of waffles and syrup at my parents’ home.
Married only a few years, Sweet William and I lived close enough to walk if we wanted, but there were presents to carry and eventually a small boy in tow on a chilly day, so we drove the truck.
We entered through the walk-in basement of their home and ascended the stairs that led us into the kitchen. It was warm and fragrant of coffee and bacon. The old familiar red and green printed cloth was spread on mother’s round table for the morning feast. Homemade syrup was heating on the gas stove. In the adjacent living room was a tree dressed in red ornaments and birds and laden with presents planned with love. Those were such good days, fondly recalled, bringing a smile to my heart.
Life moves on as unavoidable change affects us. My mother and dad are both gone now. The first Christmas after my mother’s death was so difficult for me. I knew there would be no waffles at her house that year. We had to do something different because Christmas would never be the same again without her excitement, smile, warm hugs, and loving presence.
Yet there was this small boy who needed some normalcy, needed to celebrate Christmas when I didn’t want to that year. I muddled through it somehow. Eventually I had to learn a new way to honor the holidays and life as we now knew it.
I enjoy hearing people talk about their family traditions. When they throw in phrases like, “We always . . . ” or “Every year we . . . ,” it tells me how meaningful special rituals are in the life of a family. Traditions help stabilize when the world is crashing around us.
We bring our traditions with us into a new family unit or we build new ones into the holidays on purpose. But then something happens that disrupts everything. An accident, a divorce, a death, a move, a job loss. Even blessed events, like marriage and children, affect how we will amend what we did last year. We have to adjust or risk making ourselves and everyone around us miserable.
Traditions are wonderful but they are not laws set in stone.
Much has changed for Sweet William and me over the past decade. I recall the traditions we held precious when loved ones were near. But we don’t celebrate the same way now.
More than one family is dealing with a holiday vastly different from last year. What are we to do? We may grieve while treasuring what was. We must move forward into the altered present. Learn to roll with the punches, go with the flow, modify and accommodate.
If we can’t move beyond our expectations, we strain at the bit and potentially hurt ourselves and the ones we love.
Our lives are being refined by the daily events of life. We often put importance on what seems huge and memorable. We may not comprehend how the small day-to-day incidents can clarify, purify, hone and polish us to be conformed into the image of Christ. Humbly submitting to changes with a settled joy may be part of the process of reflecting His countenance.
Change is inevitable. All I have to do is look in the mirror to see the transformations going on. The hair is whiter, the laugh lines deeper, the eyeglasses have three vision areas. And let’s not even talk about what’s going on with my body.
And yet . . . there is a changeless One giving me hope.
In Him there is no shadow of turning.
He is from everlasting to everlasting.
His faithfulness remains even when I am faithless.
Before the foundation of the earth, He is the Lamb of God.
He is a High Priest forever.
He declares the end from the beginning.
He is Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
My tradition of reading and meditating on the birth of Christ remains with me. Though He dressed in humanity, was brought forth as an infant, and submitted to earthly limitations and suffering, He was still God. He is still God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And we have seen his glory.