I attended a Christmas party this past weekend. The gathering is an annual event hosted by a long time acquaintance of mine and involves several generations of women coming together for an evening potluck, ornament exchange and cookie sharing.
One of the things we do after the dinner is play silly internet games with the chance of winning a prize. This year the party game director asked us to share our most memorable Christmas tradition. My mind went blank. My family celebrates many traditions, from the decorating of the tree to the Christmas Eve service at the church. All are important to us, so to pick the most memorable was difficult. I lamely chose one and shared it, but the question continued to needle me the rest of the weekend. What was my most memorable tradition?
By Sunday, the answer came to me. The tradition began as a homework assignment for my kindergarten-aged son Jon when we started homeschooling some twenty years before. I wanted the month of December in our home school to focus on the meaning of Christmas. I patterned my lessons around the Christmas theme, from making a new ornament, to reading about the birth of Jesus. On that particular year I decided that I would have my five-year-old memorize the first twenty verses of the second chapter of Luke and recite it as a gift for his grandmothers on Christmas morning.
Memorization is a good skill to have. I have been told that the process sharpens the mind of anyone who takes the time to hide information away in their head. At five my son was quick to learn and proved to be the proverbial sponge as he committed the chapter to memory. I sewed him a wise man’s costume and made a hat. On Christmas morning we were ready.
In a clear voice Jon stood before his grandmothers and quoted the passage word for word, line by line. His audience reacted with pleasure and he earned his first kudos for doing a good job. However, the following Christmas he wanted to recite the passage again. Since we always begin our Christmas morning with the story of Jesus’ birth, Jon’s recitation soon became a tradition.
I asked him recently if he was ready to quote the passage again. After all, he was now 26 and living on his own. Would he want to recite one more time a passage that had wowed family members so many years before? His answer was immediate. Yes. After all, the Christmas story never fades with time.
Who knew a simple homework assignment inadvertently would become a long-standing Christmas tradition that would truly outshine any others we still keep?
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the entire world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.
Now there were shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Behold an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Then the Lord said to them “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying”
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told them. Luke 2:1-20