The caption on the coffee house door says, “Take comfort in rituals.” I like that. There are some things in this life, when done over and over again, that bring certain predictability to days filled with uncertainty. That uncertainty can come from the economic crisis that is tightening its vice-like grip on our world. It can come from the sharp debate in politics that turns otherwise reasoned men and women into shrill partisans more resembling petulant children than grown adults assigned to help us find our way in these confusing days.
That is why, I think, we are drawn to rituals and why holidays are vital to our health as a community. I am remembering the song from the play Fiddler on the Roof where Tevye sings about this as the glue that holds families and communities together: Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!
I went to college out of state and my parents would not send me money to come home for Christmas. Either they didn’t have it or they didn’t trust me with it. Instead, they sent me a gas credit card; a Texaco card to be exact. I always looked forward to mail from home when I was in college but there is nothing like getting a white envelope with a little note wrapped around a gas card that said, “Looking forward to seeing you, son.” I remember running my fingertips over the raised numbers on that card and feeling a strong pull towards something warm, comforting, predictable, safe and reassuring…home.
I love hearing about Christmas traditions. Our family growing up typically opened one gift on Christmas Eve, usually socks or underwear. One Christmas Eve, however, my brother and I got the board game Risk and we stayed up all night trying to capture and recapture Madagascar. I don’t think I have played the game since. My wife’s family always ate potato soup and hotdogs on Christmas Eve.
Today we pass one gift to one person in our family and then we all watch them open that gift to witness the joy of the perfect and deeply thoughtful gift. Sometimes there is a puzzled look minus the joy. Then, when enough joy has been witnessed and assimilated, greed takes over and someone shouts out, “Whose next?”
On our first Christmas together my wife went home to be with her family but I couldn’t get the time off from work so I had to stay out of state over Christmas. Some friends let me spend Christmas with them and their family, but it wasn’t the same. I remember how out of place I felt. I was at someone’s home for this holiday, but not my home. Nothing about it felt right. Like the sun coming up in the west instead of the east, you are glad it came up, but you sure hope it goes back to normal tomorrow.
I wonder if you have ever felt like you were in the wrong place on Christmas. Like maybe you should be home. Maybe there could be a place for you to feel “at home.” If you remember the story of Jesus’ birth it tells us that there was no room for him in the inn, so he had to be born in a stable and a manger. He, too, was a long way from home on the first Christmas. He was a long way from His second home, Nazareth and a long way from His first home, Heaven.
But Jesus always shows up where room is made for him.
Why not start a new “old” tradition this year? If you have no place to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I invite you to come to our church for a brief candlelight celebration. We will sing some traditional carols, hear the Christmas Story and enjoy gathering as a people who are certain that God knows our name and is waiting for us to come home. Our service will be at 6:00 Christmas Eve at the corner of Prospect and 2nd in Old Town.
We will make room for you.