I don’t know what it was about last night, but I had a profound awareness of God’s presence as my family decorated our Christmas tree. As my wife placed hangers on the ornaments, she pointed out the various people and places that had so generously given us these little gifts of memories. I hung a big figure skate on the tree from my friend Nora thanking me for the gift of friendship. Nora, if you read this, know that I smiled as I placed that skate up on the tree. I considered your friendship a true blessing. We hung the wonderfully decorated ornaments up from churches past. Wonderful jewels of the memories of service.
We moved our way through the storage boxes as we hung ornaments dating back to the first Christmas that my wife and I celebrated as a married couple. Each of our children hung their first ornaments from the respective year of their own births. Of course, the 14 year old hung his near the top and the 4 year old hung his near the bottom. Seeing my boys hang their own proclamations of their lives made me appreciate how we honor the rituals specially created in our family.
I began to appreciate the many years that I have been hanging ornaments on trees dating back to my own childhood. I gave thanks for the times that I hung an item which sparked a message that God’s hope and spirit are alive and well in my home. Family traditions, at their best, invite us to bring the past into the present. Each year we put up a tree, we touch those who have gone before us. We somehow connect to the many Christmases of yesterday.
We naturally celebrate a season of Advent. It is our hope to move forward by looking back on the gifts which we have received in years gone by. This is where we gather strength in our faith. We know that we can move on because we have before. We press on with the promise of what is to come.