The smell of Christmas cookies is still in the air, combined with the scent of pine from our new Christmas tree. As I make my way out to the porch on this balmy Texas morning, sticky pine needles stick to my bare feet. Here I sit, staring out over a fresh morning, cuppa in hand, awaiting the last moments of peace as the hectic Christmas week is about to begin.

Big Muscles

Though I love to work, I’m looking forward to some time off. Like a muscle that is flexed constantly, your brain needs a break once in a while, a distraction, to open up to new possibilities. Christmas is the ending and the beginning. 

Year-Round Christmas

When I was a kid, my father would insist we get our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving. He loved the feel of Christmas, and in the last two years of his life, he left his Christmas tree up the whole time because he loved it so much and it brought so many memories.\

The Old Church

My Grandmother Luella was fun to visit at Christmas because she had bubble lights on her tree, which were probably from the 1940s. They were almost like miniature lava lamps, but if you touched them, you’d get burned! She also had a little plastic church; you would wind it up, and the music box would play while the doors opened. It was a favorite of all the grandkids, and I think everyone wanted it when she passed. I’m not sure who got it; it wasn’t me.

OK, So It’s Tacky

We grow fond of decorations. They become like family heirlooms, even if some are silly and some are tacky. When the kids were little my mom sent this Christmas angel with wings that light up in multiple colors. As tacky as it is, the kids still insist we put it out, and my guess is that if we are ever blessed with grandkids, it will be the decoration they all want to inherit when we pass. 

A Song from Bing

One of my favorites is a cartoon-like Christmas caroller leaning against a lamppost, looking like Bing Crosby holding a microphone. When you press the button, it sings like Bing. Silly, tacky, but fun. Everyone groans when I push the button.

Cookie Cutters

Mom used to make Christmas cookies, pulling out these red plastic cookie cutters from the ’50s. I’m not sure what happened to them, but we bought a set at an antique store, as a reminder. Of course, they get used for making cookies.

Memory Bombs

Each time we put up the tree, the ornaments are like a time machine, stimulating memories. We have some from our childhoods, and lots our kids made when they were little. Ornaments from the kids’ band, ornaments from places we visited, ornaments from celebrations. 

I never really stopped to think about these things till now, but these heirlooms carry important family history, and they often remain when our loved ones are gone, reminding us of them.

Each family has traditions. We always set a place at the table for Jesus, and we bake a baby Jesus figure into a cake. And we read the Christmas story from the Bible before we ever open gifts, so we’re putting Christ first.

Though I’m easily annoyed by the pressure of gift buying and the overt commercialization in retail, bringing Christmas out even before Halloween, I’m grateful for the tradition and the feeling it gives us each year.

What are your family traditions?
What are your favorite memories of Christmas past?
Favorite Christmas movies?

Christmas is, in my humble opinion, Christ bringing us together, keeping families together, and helping us to remember and honor those who can’t be with us. It’s a time of joy, allowing us to perhaps forget for a brief time some of the difficult moments we face the rest of the year.

In just one week, those of us who celebrate will be gathered around a tree, creating memories and reliving memories.

May your Christmas week be filled with Joy.

Eric Rhoads

PS: If you’re not feeling in the Christmas spirit, find someplace with some Christmas music and decorations. We make a point to drive through some well-lit neighborhoods at night, and though we show up at our place of worship most Sundays, we love the Christmas music this time of year, and we’ll be there Christmas Eve. It’s a time to be part of a bigger family, where everyone is welcome. 

We have some people very close to us who will be trying to pull some joy out of their Christmas this year, because of a lost child, and a lost father and grandpa. If you’re experiencing this, you are in our thoughts and prayers. It’s hard to be filled with joy at times like this, but it’s my hope that you find some joy in the memories found in your family traditions.