I was recently asked what my favorite Christmas tradition is and found that a surprisingly hard question to answer.
It seems that nearly every moment is a tradition with my family, and that makes it hard to pick just one.
From making gumbo Christmas Eve morning to wrapping presents to gathering on Christmas Day, there are so many individual moments that add up to make the season special.
This year, we have added new traditions to our family’s celebration with our grandchildren, MacGuire and Ann-Roberts. There was no greater scene of pure joy than when we picked out our Christmas tree with them, and then as they helped Rebecca and me decorate the tree.
After I thought more on my what favorite Christmas tradition is, I reflected on why we celebrate the Christmas season in the first place.
The church’s liturgical calendar begins with the season of Advent. From the lighting of the first candle, the new year has begun, anticipating the birth of our Savior on Christmas. The entirety of the year depends upon the preparation for and celebration of the birth of Christ. Epiphany, Lent, and Easter all rely on that first candle’s light proclaiming the coming of the Lord, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Similar, yet still very different, to our holiday preparations today, there were many small moments that added up to the joy of that first Christmas night. From the angel proclaiming the news to Mary, Mary telling Joseph, and the long trek to Bethlehem, many small parts had to come together in the Town of David.
My favorite Christmas tradition is without a doubt going to church as a family on Christmas Eve and worshipping Jesus on his birth.
From the light of the first candle, all those in attendance on Christmas Eve light their own candles. No one person’s candle could light the church, but together, we all fill the church with the soft amber glow.
In the same way, the good news of the birth of Christ cannot be proclaimed by one person alone. His light must be carried by millions, proclaiming His word and salvation.
After the readings, hymns, prayers, homily, and communion, my favorite portion of the service occurs.
The first few bars of Silent Night are played, and the church joins in together with the choir. Slowly, all the lights in the church are extinguished, and we are left to sing the last verse in darkness.
The last line fades into the dark of the night, “sleep in heavenly peace…” and all is still.
That moment of calm reflection on the entirety of the past year, the highs and lows, rejoicing and tears, makes one think of how truly blessed we are in our daily lives.
Those living in the darkness of fear, illness, poverty, or other challenges this year, I hope you take comfort this Christmas season in the words written in John 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
For my family, friends, and staff, I am thankful for the past year we have shared together and anticipate the joys of the next.
And to the people of Southwest Alabama, I say thank you for your generosity, kindness, and prayers throughout the years. I look forward to hearing from you and serving you next year.
As you celebrate your favorite Christmas traditions this year, I hope you take a moment to give thanks for your blessings and remember the birth of our Savior.
From my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!