As promised in yesterday's post, here's a story about one of my crazy attempts to "create" a tradition for our family...
This past Sunday marked the first Sunday of Advent. During this season, our rector (that's the title for the priest/pastor at our church) reminds us that Advent is a time of preparation, one where we aren't supposed to know what to expect, i.e. Jesus' birth, but we are to get ourselves ready for what God has in store for us.
Essentially, we are to forget what we already know. Which means we are jumping the gun with all the Christmas carols, decorating, gift buying, etc.
Our family tried that a few years ago. No decorations, no Christmas CDs. Just our Jesse Tree readings (which I'll share about on Thursday) and Handel's Messiah. But I do admit to buying a few gifts and getting some decorations ready...it was all part of the preparation theme. ;) The idea was to make it Christmas Day, go to church and then launch into a 13-day celebration of Jesus' birth (to end on January 6, Epiphany).
What ended up happening was this...
Christmas Day arrived. We went to church. We rushed home to decorate the house (and by "we," I mean mostly me since the kids were too young to really assist with this part and Dave was mostly busy keeping the kids busy while I dashed about the house to get everything ready before gathering as a larger family). Then we spent the next two weeks trying to feel all festive and Christmas-like.
It was a complete bust.
After all, everyone else in the Christmas-celebrating world had moved on to prepare for the New Year. Christ's birthday had come and gone once again. The decorations still decked the halls, but the Christmas-minded spirit disappeared with the season's songs on the radio.
Instead of celebrating Christmas, it felt like we were trying to resuscitate it. Not the fond tradition-making memory I was going for.
So this is what I've learned from the Christmas tradition that wasn't: Traditions cannot be thought up, planned out or creatively packaged in an I've-got-all-my-bases-covered kit. Traditions are organic. They grow over time and evolve with us. They become traditions because they envelope us in a love-dance born of our need to celebrate and fellowship together...to experience a commonality we can share a rejoice over.
Since that Christmas several years ago, our Advent preamble to the big day continues much of the quiet reflectiveness we first sought. But we carry with it a joyful expectation of what is to come. A knowing of how this story will begin and end. And we look forward to celebrating along with everyone else and preparing our hearts and our home for the One whose birth would kindle our rebirth. Jesus. Immanuel. God with us.
Thursday, I will share on a tradition which has grown to be my favorite part of this season, and Friday, I'll share a tradition the kids excitedly anticipate (especially now that they begin to grasp the concept of time).