(This is the final post in my reflections-on-a-different-December trilogy.)
Do you hear it? The opening strains of “Fiddler on the Roof”, that is. I do almost every time I come across the word “tradition”. Like the townspeople in the critically-acclaimed musical, my family cherishes our traditions. In fact, we make good-natured fun of ourselves by saying once we’ve done something two years in a row, it acquires tradition status. Nonetheless, we’ve had to accept that there are times when circumstances intervene and beloved customs must be modified or set aside completely.
My husband’s sudden death when our daughters were still in elementary school ushered in significant changes to our Christmas celebrations. Years later, eldest-daughter Mary’s marriage brought about another shift in the flow of holiday events, as did the births of her children. Not only were there in-laws to visit, but she and husband Justin sought to develop their own blend of old and new traditions, as Ray and I had decades earlier.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is our oft-uttered proclamation, “Being together is the best gift.” Reiterated on a variety of gift-giving, tradition-laden, special occasions, there are times when its veracity is confirmed by prevailing events. Such was the case this past December as Mom spent an unscheduled six-day stay in the hospital, a detour which included back surgery. Her unforeseen hospitalization brought about a number of deviations to not only our daily schedules, but also to some pre-holiday plans. Nonetheless, Mom was released in time to attend great-granddaughter Lyla’s birthday party on the 23rd and all subsequent Christmas festivities. Having her home, pain-free, truly was better than anything to be found in a brightly-wrapped box.
As I contemplated the various vicissitudes visited upon us in December, I was repeatedly reminded that everything that genuinely matters hadn’t changed at all. Indeed, most of the traditions I hold dear are special because of the people associated with them. The love, laughter, and, sometimes, tears shared as we create memories that bind us together are priceless. Those ties encompass ones who have been called Home, sustain those of us temporarily left behind and are the stuff of family lore for our youngest, providing a foundation for their own celebrations.
Yes, some of the memories now associated with the twelfth month of 2017 are different, but if you look beneath the surface, you’ll find the similarities to so many of our traditions – our love for each other manifested in our commitment to be together, to celebrate when we can and to navigate uncertain waters together. All of which is a blessing, bestowed by the Giver of every good gift.
Furthermore, we love because He first loved us, by sending his Son, as a tiny, helpless baby who grew into a man, lived a sinless life and died a horrific death on our behalf. All so we could be with God FOREVER. Good news, amazing news, the news we’re commanded to teach our children and share to the ends of the earth.
Even though some may say we’re too quick to initiate traditions and declare special occasions, every day is celebration-worthy when viewed in the light of God’s goodness.
Oh Father, how we thank you for the gift of your Son. Please help us to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, for comprehending who we are in Him changes everything.
 James 1:17
 1 John 4:19
 John 3:16
 Isaiah 53:5-6
 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
 Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalm 34:11
 Matthew 28:18-19
 Ephesians 3:18-19