Like many families, ours has long standing traditions that we have established for the Christmas season. It all begins the weekend after Thanksgiving, the decorations come out, trees go up and the outside of our home notifies passers by that a family of bon-a-fide Christmas lovers lives there. With a constant chorus of Christmas music as our backdrop, we take the kids for their annual Christmas picture, see Santa at the mall, watch a different Christmas movie or T.V "special" every night, build a gingerbread house, drive around to see the lights, watch the kids perform in various Christmas plays, programs and pageants, help the little ones wrap their gifts they bought at their school's Santa Shop, mail Christmas cards and we wrap it up on Christmas eve by composing a poem or song about our family's year before putting out the cookies, milk and reindeer food.
This year my wife and I got a special treat. For some reason our timing was off; the trees did not go up on time and the rain delayed decorating outside. We decided to take our own holiday picture like we did when the kids were little, we skipped the mall Santa not wanting to go through the "production" that that simple joy has become and we simply had more obligations than past years with dance, Scouts, basketball and a litany of other things that pop up.
Then as only a 15 year old girl can do, our eldest asked, "What? So were not celebrating Christmas this year?" "We didn't get our picture taken, we haven't seen Santa, we don't have the downstairs tree up, the outside looks pathetic, you haven't taken me shopping so I can get gifts for the family, I guess it's not important."
It would have been easy for me to say, "She doesn't get it." "Doesn't get what we are up against, doesn't get how busy we are, doesn't get how tired we are." But in reality, it was me who did not get it. Here was a 15 year old girl, asking why we are not observing our Christmas traditions. I wouldn't think she would care about sitting for a picture with her brothers and sister "who annoy her", much less going to see Santa. Oh how wrong I was. It's not the act that she cares about, it is the fact that this is what we do as a family, it is our tradition and that means everything to her.
Then it hit me, she has only done these things once a year for 14 years. It only took a few times of doing these things to engrain beliefs that are important to her, only 14 times! I am encouraged that if she has only seen and done something for such a short period of time then maybe the values we hold dear will have the same impact when lived out 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
During Jesus' earthly ministry, he showed over and over the error in blindly following religious traditions. The tradition or act itself means nothing and often takes us away from the intended purpose. But like our daughter showed, it's our attitude, our heart and our desire to live the real meaning of what the tradition represents that's important.
Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas Season!
Enrich your Christmas Season by joining us on Saturday December 15 from 6:30-8:00pm as we sing Good Ole Fashioned Christmas Carols. Our special musical guests will be the Wallis Maricle Worship Singers and I guarantee that you will be blessed by the experience. Join us after singing for some light refreshments of Christmas Cookies! Don't miss this chance to be blessed this Christmas!
As we enter the season when the consumerism express begins to churn at full speed, I spend a lot of time dwelling on my favorite portion, at this point in my life, of the Tao Te Ching: "I have just three things to teach; Simplicity, Patience, Compassion. These are your greatest treasures" - Lao Tzu.
This past week, these three words have run around and around in my head, simplicity, patience, compassion. I love the concept of simplicity and embrace it in all that do. It is the simplicity of Thanksgiving that attracts me to it. The gathering of family and friends for a time of food, fun and conversation. A time for kids to hear stories from and about their parents, grandparents and if they are so blessed, great grandparents. A time to put down the screens and talk to someone face to face. Hear not only their words, but the inflection of their speech, see the emotion in their eyes and on their face. Touch someone with a hug and a kiss, connect with heart, mind, body and soul with your kin. There is no worry about buying a gift for everyone there, you are the gift! Your presence, your time, your being fully in the moment; listening, talking and most of all, feeling. There is no need to worry if you spent enough on this or that. There is no feeling bad because someone gave you a gift and you did not have one for them. There is no going into debt to show others you love them. There is no rushing here to there, running so fast that you miss the meaning of the holiday. Simplicity.
Patience. I have given a lot of thought to this word and how to embody it in my life. I have marveled at the patience of my mentors and wondered why I fall so woefully short. What I currently believe about becoming more patient goes back to simplicity. When my minds is uncluttered, I am more patient. When I don't overburden my mind with useless thoughts or too many commitments or when I am purposeful about what I take into my mind; I have a completely different result then when I do the opposite. Perhaps the most profound lesson I learned was through my sons playing soccer last fall. They were both almost brand new to the game and did not fully understand positions and a team approach. I found I got upset and impatient watching them not perform and execute as I thought they should. Then I asked them, "Are you having fun? Yes! That is all that counts." My expectations for the development of their skills was not their expectations. They are the ones playing, not me, and they were having fun. I just need to relax and enjoy them having fun.
Compassion. Jesus spoke about, taught and most importantly lived compassion. I find it very interesting that a book written more than 5,000 years ago focuses on this same topic. What that suggests to me is that compassion is so easily lost or forgotten or explained away in our minds. I am constantly reminded of the saying, No one truly knows the burdens another carries. It is so easy to react to a perceived injustice, unkindness, or snub, than to take a few minutes, breathe in and let it go. And as Jesus said, love those who hate you, bless those who curse you. Simplicity, Patience, Compassion.