As this holiday season approached, I turned a blind eye. I hoped a Tsum-Tsum Advent calendar (because smushed Disney characters have much to do with the Savior’s birth), decorations made in preschool, and Amazon Prime could float us through this particular December. I had no capacity to Pinterest, Elf-on-the-Shelf, bucket lists, or anything considered intentional. My kids, picking up cues from every other pocket of life, looked at me and asked, “What are our Christmas traditions?”
Transitions. Our traditions are transitions.
At least that’s how the last four years have felt. Five moves. A new kid. New jobs. New schools. New challenges. New dreams. Not much yesteryear and long-established.
It’s been easy to push off traditions to “next year,” when apartment living will be a distant memory (oh please, let it be!), when decorations will have storage other than the tiptop of possessions-Jenga that has overtaken the garage, when sleep won’t be limited by how well three children share a room. Next year, when our banner won’t be Merry Chaos, but Merry Christmas. Next year.
I catch myself drowning in mom guilt of the Christmas variety. At nine, six, and three, are their lives being ruined with a lack of tradition? With a lack of depth and connectedness of a most significant holiday. With a lack of nostalgia to wash over them decades from now. With unpredictability in a season meant for peace?
Tradition tends to look back. What have we done that we can keep doing? What can pass on and persist another year? What can go yet another year strong?
Traditions are wonderful and I suppose, if we had them, we’d grip them well.
But while I see no tradition in the rearview mirror, I look straight ahead at what is and what might be. Instead of What’s been that could keep on being? I’m looking around and asking What is that should be again?
There’s one thing I hope will roll over into next year. A tradition I hope to establish.
We joined friends and strangers in yuletide jingle, parading through the streets on a chilly evening, harmonizing uninvited. We tried our best to remember lesser-sung second verses and catch the tune only some seemed to find. We joined voices never paired. We dug deep into our souls to deliver joy unexpected.
It was dark, making it hard to recognize the faces in our traveling choir. I was a mom outnumbered, preoccupied by not losing the one running ahead nor the one lagging behind. But at every stoop, we found Christmas magic. Voices melting together to wish peace, joy, and hope on the lives behind each door.
Oh sure, there was the one slammed door from the guy somehow offended by Frosty the Snowman, but otherwise, there was magic. Folks freezing in their robes to catch every note. Those seeking an encore. Some filling our bellies with cookies and candies. People warmed by a nostalgic act that felt out of place in 2017.
We walked our route, covering the same stretch of homes where we’d trick-or-treated months ago. Many houses packed close together makes for both a great candy haul and a productive caroling jaunt.
But one home remained on the other end of the neighborhood—a dialed-in request to visit an elderly man. We were wrapping up the last bars of White Christmas before he appeared, after what I imagine was not an easy walk across his home. He positioned his walker to get a clear look at each face, and he motioned for someone to open the door so he could hear our voices. We sang extras and took in each moment. I suspect we made his season, but I’m even more convinced he made ours. In his need, he gave us an unparalleled opportunity.
And that’s when it connected for me.
In our great need, we give the Savior an unparalleled opportunity to meet it. To meet it and exceed it.
Do we position ourselves to reveal our brokenness and see every aspect of His face? Do we motion so that we can hear Him more clearly?
Our little 90 minutes of ragtag caroling gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies inside. It couldn’t help it. But beyond fuzzies and hopes of carried-over tradition in future years, it gave me something more. It gave me a deeper sense of my Savior.
I don’t know what next year will bring. Likely continued chaos. Expecting calm, order, and settledness doesn’t make it so. Improved circumstance doesn’t even guarantee.
Sure, I’d like to think my lack of intention can wane, and tradition can find footing.
But tradition or not, I’ve seen Him anew.
And that’s one thing I hope to carry into whatever comes next.