We are back from our Christmas travels. Tired, but refreshed, still glowing from watching my son spend time with his family. Our families are scattered all over the country, and I feel incredibly happy and lucky to get a chance to visit everyone.
But this time of year also leaves me with some longing for my own traditions. As soon as we got home last night my son asked to open another door on his advent calendar—stuck back on the 21st. He was a bit confused when I let him go ahead and open all the remaining doors. Our Advent candles greeted us on the table, the center candle still with its pristine wick, a reminder of the day and ritual past. I think we’ll keep lighting them through Epiphany, but it’s not the same as lighting a new candle on Christmas Eve.
In the middle of taking in family celebrations, we did mark Christmas Eve by hearing the familiar story with a community. We found a church on the internet to visit while we were traveling, and we stepped in on their busy and joyous grab-a-costume-as-you-walk-in pageant. We managed to stay in the pews for about 10 minutes before my son got the repeated stink-eye for jumping around (even at a kid-friendly service, he can be very active at church, I’m not going to say he didn’t deserve it.) So I’ll be remembering this Christmas as the one I spent watching through the windows in the back of the church, my son sprawled out on the floor trying to kick at my ankles.
While I don’t consider that ideal, I don’t exactly consider it a fail, either. This is where we are this year. At our own church’s pageant, the Education Minister opened with the reminder, “Today someone will be hearing this story for the first time, and today someone will be hearing this story for the last time.” All the more poignant, since just a week before an active member of that congregation passed away unexpectedly.
These stories, these rhythms, happen in the middle of life, wherever life is taking us. This time of year is so rich in tradition, that we can recognize it even from the back of the church with a fussy preschooler. It's harder to notice those moments where God's story touches our story through the rest of the year.