Christmas 2019

I try to start each day by writing an essay which I published as my journal. I find that making it the first priority of the day, instead of focusing on the news, or doing chores, allows my creativity to come forward and helps me keep a discipline that has been a part of my life for a dozen years now. But this morning I did a couple of other things first. Christmas, it seems to me, is a good day for changing one’s routines and doing things in a slightly different order. I’m not making any really big changes. Most readers of my journal won’t notice anything different. As they say, when a guy whose hair is as short as mine lets down his hair, it isn’t a dramatic event.

It its good for our home o feel like Christmas. The lights on the tree are lit, there are presents under the tree. Bread is rising in the kitchen and in the refrigerator vegetables are marinating to be roasted later this morning. Our home is full of cookies and other special treats. There’s a bit of pie in the refrigerator. We have a bit of snow left from previous storms and the forecast calls for snow this afternoon and evening. There was a hint of fog in the air as we drove home from the church around 1 am. It feels like Christmas and Christmas feels good.

We’ve gone through several generations of Christmas traditions since our children became adults and moved into their own homes. Both of our children have lived quite a way from home in their married lives. At first, when they were young adults, they would come home. In some ways there were more pressures for us to observe the Christmas traditions when they were young adults than at other phases of their lives. When they were younger, we were forming our traditions and there was a sense of flexibility. When they were coming home for Christmas, there was an expectation that we’d remember traditions of years past. Somewhere in that phase our parents moved near to us and we assumed increasing responsibilities for their care. Our Christmas observances shifted in those years. Sometimes our children didn’t come home for Christmas, celebrating with other parts of the family. After our parents passed away we started traveling at Christmas. That had been our tradition when we were first married up through the years when our children started school. We always took off on Christmas Day to be with family and spend a bit of time unwinding after the intensity of the holidays.

in recent years we have often traveled on Christmas Day and have been blessed to spend it with our family. We’ve had Christmas in the homes of both of our children. Now that they have children of their own, they are forming their own traditions and while we are most welcome to join them, it seemed like this was a good year for staying at home. Susan’s recovery has been wonderful and she could certainly travel, but we didn’t know how that would feel when looking at it from the perspective of a couple of months ago, when it is best to make plans and purchase tickets. Our children both came to visit us in October, so it hasn’t been too long.

Today we’ll have a wonderful feast with friends, each of us contributing a favorite food to the dinner. We’ll have time for a walk and perhaps a nap. We’ll talk with our children by Skype or FaceTime. We’ll open a few presents and we’ll get to see our grandchildren open the gifts we have selected for them. Technology is a great gift to us that allows us to witness the celebrations of our children and grandchildren even when we are in different places.

It is a year for a bit of nostalgia for us. We know that 2020 will bring big changes into our lives. We still don’t fully know what it will be like to back off from the routine of daily work and to develop new activities and adventures. We suspect that we’ll travel a bit more. We hope to change the pace of our travels as well, not always having to rush to get back home for the work that lies ahead. Of course retiring doesn’t mean that there will be no work to be done. We’ll still have a home to maintain and things to do. We will be active in our church, thought we don’t know exactly how that will work out with a new church in a new place and our role in the church very different than it has been for all of these years.

The celebration of Christmas is, in part, a celebration of God’s continuing creativity. There is newness in the world. God works in the world through miracles such as the birth of a baby. Each child opens up incalculable possibility for all humans. Each new life holds the capacity to change the world.

Each Christmas we hear world leaders pray for peace. The Pope traditionally issues a “Urbi et Orbi” (to the City and the World) statement on Christmas Day. This year he participated with other religious leaders in issuing a statement calling for peace in South Sudan before making his traditional Christmas declaration. In his declaration he appealed to God to soften “our often stony and self-centered hearts, and make them channels of His love.” He prayed for those who are impoverished and those who suffer violence. He appealed for us to take down walls of indifference being put up to people fleeing hardship. And he prayed for victims of natural disasters.

We are invited to share in these prayers in many ways. They inspire us to work for peace and justice. They invite us to respond with compassion for those who are in need. Beyond that, however, they also hold the possibility for us to really believe in peace not only as a promise for the future, but also as a present reality.

As we celebrate this day, may we open our hearts to the new things that God is doing.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!