Christmas Traditions

People have different things that they always to at Christmastime, traditions that they follow. For some people, it may be as simple as always exchanging gifts. For others, they may have lists of cookies to make every year, a specific place for each and every decoration, and special meals to prepare and share with others. Growing up, my family tended toward the latter.
One of my most prized Christmas decorations is a paint-your-own nativity set that my father had given my grandfather one year. Grandpa enjoyed painting it so much that the next year, he bought and painted a set for each of his five sons. Years later, shortly before my husband Karl and I were going to be married, my widowed grandmother was on hospice, diagnosed with terminal cancer. She began going through her things and listing what she wanted to go to whom. She decided that she wanted Karl and me to have the original nativity set.
This was and still is an incredibly precious gift to me. As a child and even now, I always loved setting up the pieces of the set and seeing the matching ones at my¬†grandparents’ and aunts and uncles’ houses. It was also rather emblematic of our family’s focus during Advent and Christmas. While we did do the whole cookies-decorations-visit Santa-give and receive gifts thing, my parents always made sure my sister and I knew that Christmas was about Christ coming to seek and save those who were lost in the darkness of sin, ourselves included.
Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christians, fear for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary. (from What Child Is This?)

Who’s in Your Family?

Some people (like my husband) find family trees and histories to be fascinating. Learning about the people from whom you are descended can be an interesting and informative experience. I personally do not know a great deal about all of my ancestors (Karl probably knows more about them than I do). We have drawn from their names, though, in naming our children.

St. Matthew records the ancestry of Jesus at the beginning of his Gospel. Among those named are many less-than-stellar individuals. I knew this without having to look at the footnotes in my study Bible, but something that those notes did point out was that all of them were sinners.

Of course, that is a given, as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23). But sometimes when I read that verse, I gloss over it or apply it only to myself. Christ stood alone in his purity in this world. He came from a line of people tainted, stained, ruined by sin, in order to save a world full of people tained, stained, ruined by sin. St. Paul continues in his letter to the Christians in Rome by saying, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a porpitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:24).

God’s grace is shown in Christ. It is shown in His allowing those sinners to be a part of His plan for their, for our salvation. It is shown in the way in which God calls us to be His children, washed clean in the blood of Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for my sins, which are too numerous for me to count. Thank You for Your love and mercy, which calls me from the darkness of my sin into the light of Your grace. Amen.