I was reading another blog this week – one that I regularly follow – and, yes, you guessed it – it prompted a reflection. I enjoy reading her blog because she reminds me of “me” twenty years ago. So here’s my reflection inspired by her blog.
One of my Christmas traditions when raising my boys, was to select a special family Christmas card. Great care and consideration was placed into selecting the perfect card each year that would be sent to over one hundred family members and friends. I wanted it to have meaning and touch people’s hearts. I would include the typical family letter updating everyone on the boys’ progress for the year along with the very standard school photos. Then after addressing all of the envelopes, I would keep one copy of that card, date it, and turn it into an ornament for our very large Christmas tree. I remember many of the cards, but one stands out as my all-time favorite.
Christmas, as we know, can be stressful, especially when raising children. You want to give them their hearts’ desires and sometimes overextend financially. You want to buy that special gift for your spouse or parents and sometimes fear that it may not be what they would have selected. The preparations for that one special day: shopping, baking, cooking, organizing family gatherings along with attending school programs, office parties, and church programs … such a busy time.
The card I am remembering put everything into perspective that year. The scene was a modest one – a cozy fire glowing in the small fireplace, a rocking chair to the side. It was not an elaborate room. A little boy was standing facing the fireplace with a teddy bear dragging the floor from the fingertips of his right hand. You couldn’t see his face – only the backside of his hair and pajamas. He was peering up to the mantle where a nativity was displayed. He seemed to want to see it all standing on his tiptoes on the braided rug to get a better view. It was not a photograph but rather an artist’s rendering of a somewhat dated era. The inside of the card read:
When you get right down to it,
the only thing that really matters is Jesus.
This was indeed the perfect card, not only for that year but for every year. I remember receiving more comments than usual on the card. The words in this card are timeless, as evident in that I found the same words in a card for sale this Christmas – 20 years later. The front design was different but still involved a nativity scene.
I am reminded of another tradition when I walk into my living room and see the nativity set belonging to my grandmother. Growing up, I didn’t realize it had been hers. My mother displayed it every Christmas in our living room. I never questioned its origin throughout the years. It simply always “was.” Then one year as a young woman in my twenties, I asked my mother what she had done with the nativity set. She responded, “You mean, my mother’s?”
The nativity pieces were in a box in the garage but the stable had deteriorated and had been thrown away a few years earlier. She then told me the “story.” She had purchased it for her mother over 40 years ago as a teenager because her mother was a little “down” that year and wasn’t going to decorate for Christmas. So the tradition of the nativity began with this gift from my mother to my grandmother. Even though Mammy (Grandmother) died a few years after that, my mother displayed it every year in her own living room.
I humbly asked, “May I have the pieces?” She gave them to me, and I purchased a stable at a crafts store. Just like my mother, I displayed it every Christmas in my living room or dining room. The boys grew up with it just as I had – it always “was.” Now they can know the story – the tradition.
Although the boys are grown and the tradition of selecting the family card is a “thing of the past,” the words in that very special card ring true. Now I worry about finances – college expenses. I worry about their choices and mine. I try to work in all of the activities at the office, stay in touch with family and friends through various social media, and, oh, maybe I should try to work in that Christmas Eve service too. I still wear my “ugly” Christmas sweater that’s not so ugly to me and the earrings my youngest son gave me for Christmas about fifteen years ago – hooks with small red and green beads and a Santa dangling at the bottom.
You know, maybe it’s time for some new traditions. But this one thing I know as I look at my grandmother’s nativity:
The only thing that really matters is Jesus.