Christmas Traditions

In the Old Testament, the Isrealites remembered God’s provision and faithfulness through feasts and celebrations. Several times a year, they’d stop what they were doing and celebrate how God brought them out of slavery, or how God protected them from their enemies. Additionally, several times throughout the Old Testament, men of faith would also set up memorial stones to remind all who passed by of God’s great provision.

In Genesis 35:14, Jacob set up a pillar, a type of memorial, in the place where God had spoken and revealed Himself. In 1 Samuel 7:12, Samuel took a stone and set it up saying, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” Every time the Israelites went by them, they would remember what God had done. How He had brought them out of bondage, healed their children, and supernaturally provided for their needs. Having those memorial stones helped it to stay fresh in their memory.

Over the years, our family has carried out a tradition of giving Christmas ornaments to one another. Our tree is laden with ornaments going back to my childhood. And Jennifer and I adopted this family tradition over 20 years ago when we first got married and have for over 20 years accumulated ornaments, that like the Israelites, bring back  special memories. As we were decorating the tree tonight, I was flooded with memories of years gone by. There was the “Our First Christmas” ornament, with a picture of a much younger Bryan and Jen (and as Zach jokes, with hair). We have ornaments that were given by missionary friends from Russia & China. And there are many that memorialize the 2010 SF Giants World Series victory!

However, several years ago, due to the increasing population of ornaments on our tree, Jen & I decided that we would only buy one ornament for each other. That ornament usually derives from our vacation destination, or signifies a significant memory from the year. We haven’t yet purchased this year’s ornament, since we really didn’t have a vacation this summer because of Zach’s broken leg, so we were laughing tonight about getting a moving truck ornament, or finding an ornament with a boy who’s in a cast. Whatever we find, it will remind of us some special memory we shared together as a family.

It was also fun to see Zach really appreciate the tradition we share this evening. He proudly hung most of his ornaments on the front of the tree. He talked about each one and together we remembered our time together with our dog Maggie. We talked about how we miss her and what a great dog she was. We talked about the fun we had in Hawaii during our sabbatical and about how we need to go back this next summer. We looked at ornaments he made in elementary school! It was a grand time and in about 10-12 years, many of the ornaments will likely move out when Zach charters his own course in life. We keep his ornaments boxed separately, so he can carry the tradition on, when he starts his own family. And we look forward to a day that we’ll be able to recall those special memories with his family.

Yes, celebrations and memorial markers help us to recall and remember God’s goodness in the land of the living. And I am grateful for the traditions that my mom started and that we now continue on, for they truly remind me of how full and blessed my life really is!

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