Almost all families have Christmas traditions. Some families’ traditions are a bit more flexible. Other families’ traditions are set in concrete – carved in stone – chiseled in granite and perhaps even tattooed on their forearms. (I can’t see their arms to confirm this suspicion right now. It is winter and we are all covered up. I will need to try to remember to check on this during the summer.)
People take Christmas very seriously. And their Christmas traditions even more seriously.
Do not try changing any Christmas-y traditions. Even the nicest of Christians will gleefully and gladly rip your soul out and dance on it if you are unwise enough to attempt such a change! (Nope – this has never happened to me . . . I am wise enough never even to consider such a foolish thing. But I have heard rumors about that other deeply foolish – truly silly pastor down the road . . . who now wanders the earth soul-less because she suggested a change or 2 to the Christmas Eve worship schedule! I pity her and pray for her daily . . . )
Our family has Christmas traditions too.
I work a lot!
Being busy during Advent does not come as a surprise. When I went to seminary and got that Masters of Divinity degree and then went on to seek ordination – I knew what I was getting into. Working for Jesus means – working on Christmas Eve and Easter.
I joke being troubled by this whole “working on Christian holidays gig” would be like a doctor being bothered by all of the sick people that keep showing up in her office! Or a lifeguard being annoyed by all of the water. Some things just come with the territory – like parenthood and barely controlled chaos (or maybe that’s just us/me?!?!?!)
Besides – I am a big fan of church-y stuff. I was a church nerd long before I was ordained. (I bet that surprises NO ONE!)
I may work a fair bit during December – but Jason and I do make sure we have plenty of special Christmas-y moments for and with our sons too.
Part of those traditions means hanging out with their mom at church even more than usual. Both Jack and now Will do a lot of behind the scenes work at church in December. They prep and fluff and clean and light and serve and do and generally make my life easier and smoother.
At home the chocolate flows a bit more freely. And there are gingerbread houses. And Christmas crafts (I bet this too surprises NO ONE!) I love a good Christmas craft or 8,000. We have special Christmas cups and mugs and of course – we decorate our house for Christmas.
Christmas Eve itself starts casually at the McFarland house. This year we had a lazy beginning to the day and then we opened presents with Caitlyn. And even better we played Clue together and laughed and chatted and teased and joked and ate silly snacks.
Then I was off to church. I love the quiet calm of the church before worship. The hush . . . The anticipation . . . The time to prepare . . . And Christmas Eve – well on Christmas Eve – it is even better – because the candles flicker and the trees sparkle – and the incredible joy of the Savior’s birth is about to be proclaimed. The only thing better is Easter! (I am such a sucker for the whole – “He is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed!” – bit.)
Christmas Eve worship is always such a joy and a delight. The Gospel readings – familiar and yet always so powerful. The music – so glorious! The Lutherans – so filled with smiles and joy and delight! Christmas Eve is good for our hearts and our souls – it knocks the dust and the rust off!
Back at home – between the worship services – I snuggled on the couch with our kitten and Will for a bit with a cup of awesome tea (thanks Markleys) and read and knit. And promptly fell asleep. I am soooooo totally NOT an evening/night person!
Then it was time for Will to write his note to Santa and leave Santa a glass of milk with a treat. This year Will decided Santa would prefer some chocolates over cookies. So – yummy – delicious chocolate candy was left for Jolly Old Saint Nick along with a carefully written note from our newly minted resident 9-year-old.
I tucked our sweet boy into bed – bid Jason a Merry Almost Christmas – and set off into the balmy – surprisingly warm winter’s night to celebrate our Savior’s birth.
Caitlyn and Jack joined me for the second “Great Christmas Eve candle lighting of 2021!” The sweet girl had a candle lighter slapped in her hand and was put right to work. Hanging out with a clergy family (or this clergy family) often means laboring for the Lord! Caitlyn fits right in. She is an awesome helper-outer and pitcher-inner.
The faithful Lutherans convened. The carols were sung. The Word was proclaimed. And the Good News was very good indeed!
Christmas Eve quietly became Christmas Day as Rod Firquin and I blew out the candles and locked the church doors and turned off the lights. Rod is an awesome helper-outer and pitcher-inner too!
Jack – Caitlyn and I walked through a quiet – peaceful – dark church one last time. Checking doors – thermostats and light switches. Enjoying the peace of the moment. The hush and the calm. The gentle – grace of a church well-loved and used.
And then we headed out into the night – early Christmas morning. Home to Jason and a hopefully sleeping Will. . .
As Jack and I walked through the door – my beloved greeted me with a warm smile and a Merry Christmas. And as he hugged me – he said – “You did it! You made it to Christmas again this year!”
“No. . .” I said with a happy sigh. “We did it again this year. We did it.”
Every family celebrates Christmas Eve in their own unique way. This is our way. This is what works for us and what we love and delight in doing. Lots of church-y stuff and candles and liturgies and carols and some casual family time and notes to Santa too.
When I am hopefully an even stranger and quirkier and odder and really – really – really old lady (I am just sorta old now) I hope I will remember these days with a smile and a laugh and so much joy. I do treasure these memories and these people in my heart.
What are your favorite Christmas Eve memories? What do you treasure in your heart? What and for whom do you give God thanks?