“There is something deep inside of the human psyche that needs a celebration where we celebrate light that overcomes darkness, where we put aside differences and try very hard to ignore the darker side of human nature — the baser side of who we are — and do good, love one another and be kind to one another.” Rev. Wayne Alloway
Christmas comes earlier every year. The carols play sooner; the lights go up in November. Of course, there is the shopping.
And every year, there is a news story–or a few–about people trampling each other to get a good deal. Those stories distort the true spirit of Christmas.
For Christians inhabiting a dark world, putting on the music of Christmas, putting up the lights, and searching for gifts to bestow on others illuminate the hope the season offers.
So maybe Christmas coming earlier every year isn’t just the retailers trying to keep red ink out of their books. Maybe it comes sooner because we keep seeking the light it brings. To move beyond the noise, crowds, and busyness of Christmas, to move beyond our own darkness is to grasp stillness, peace, and joy.
Traditions can open the door for moments of stillness, peace, and joy. Moments when we savor our understanding of Emmanuel–God who came to abide with us.
Traditions can be both trap and treasure. Some are for only a season; others span generations. Knowing which is which opens the treasure chest.
My mother was a wealth of knowledge about traditions and wives’ tales. She knew the meaning of salt over the left shoulder, a dropped knife and an itchy palm. She didn’t take superstition seriously, but she passed along the folk patches of the past–what she thought was simply a cultural literacy, the playful lore from what I had imagined was her idyllic past.
She also fostered in me a love for Christmas traditions.
I remember lighting bayberry candles with her one Christmas Eve. Legend says that burning these candles until they go out on their own brings good luck and prosperity for the coming year. I don’t remember our family having especially good luck or getting a pile of loot after our candles dimmed, but I do remember that moment with my mother.
There was only the glimmer from two tapers. And a mother and daughter standing within the circle of the flames’ light. There was stillness, peace, joy. That moment did not forebode my teen years.
Neither did it flow from the idyllic youth I had perceived hers to be. What I thought was her time of stillness and simplicity had been darker and harder than the young girl in the candlelight on Christmas Eve or the older sassy, rebellious teen, could have imagined.
My mother gave me the gifts of innocence and faith. And after the years of my dissension, I had daughters and sons. Now some of them are cultivating traditions within their own daughters and sons, traditions with an eye toward innocence and faith.
Now we have new traditions, new recipes, new songs. There is no idyllic youth with only stillness, peace, and joy. But there are moments in the glow of a steady flame.
Christmas candles represent the light of Christ, the only innocent One. I pray we will stand in the glow of that light.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”