Family. That’s the common denominator for me. When I’m thinking about Christmas traditions, they all revolve around family. Close family. Extended family. Church family. School family. Work family. Friends and neighbors who have become family. From that first night in Bethlehem, celebrating Jesus’ birth with others has been a central part of the event. The angels and shepherds were overwhelmed with the joy that Jesus’ arrival heralded, and they celebrated together. Come along this month with Jonathan Bourman and Melissa Anne Kreuser and see how their families celebrate that Christmas joy together.
Christmas starts for us the day after Thanksgiving. I crawl up into the attic and pull down all the boxes with all the decorations. My wife whips out her phone and cranks up her Christmas playlist. Then we put everything out. In the background, somewhere, a song plays, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” And that’s because it is.
Sunday night comes quickly. We turn the lights off. Our daughter strikes the match. We smell a waft of phosphorus and watch an arm reach toward the wick with the flame. The first candle on the Advent wreath gets lit—the light glimmers in our eyes. I read the prophecies. The family reflects on them and prays for Christ to come. And then, likely as not, if you could look in on us afterward, you’d see us laughing. Our hopes make humor possible. Also, Elf is on TV.
Then, Jesus’ arrival turns Christmas anticipation into celebration. You can tell because the outfits are laid out. The curling iron is by the mirror. Also, the presents are all carefully wrapped under the tree. Off we go to church for Christmas worship. We linger there. Then we come home. Special food comes out. We light the center candle of the Advent wreath and read John chapter 1. Then we open our presents and top them off with stocking stuffers.
But here’s the truth. At the Bourman house, we do Christmas like an ancient Jewish wedding. It just keeps going. Some of that is through our nightly devotional ritual. We light the candles on the wreath and do Christmas until Epiphany. The rest of it happens because of a belief we have. There are few better ways to celebrate the incarnation than to be together. We seize the quieter days after Christmas Day for moments like that.
Think of us this Dec. 27. My daughter and I may be on a ski lift somewhere, our breath hanging in the air and light dancing off the snow. To call what we do skiing would be to miss the point. It’s the spiritual talks we have along the way that we value the most. There, skiing is transcended. Because what sparkles is so much more than the snow. It’s her eyes and my heart all because Jesus is born, now in us too.
There’s something I strongly dislike about Christmas. And it’s not fruitcake. It’s that it ends.
I remember emotionally embracing our fresh balsam, standing sentinel in front of our large picture window in the cozy living room of my childhood home—so cozy, in fact, that setting up the tree necessitated the removal of several pieces of furniture for the three-week period of the tree’s existence in our house.
I also distinctly recall dreading the day we would have to take the tree down, my mom’s utterances of “It’s getting so dry” or “I guess it’s about time” signaling the approaching day of its removal. She disliked its disappearance just as much as I did and, as a result, typically put it off as long as possible.
I can’t say much has changed for me. I absolutely love basking in the warm glow of the tree on those chilly Advent evenings, transporting me back to those childhood days as the lights twinkle and gleam.
And now that I have my own children who have fully inherited their grandmother and mom’s sentimental side, they too dread the day our tree gets banished to the curb.
So we’ve adopted what we like to call a “last night” ritual of sorts.
It was back when my twin girls were just four years old, wide eyes brimming with tears as I told them we’d be undertaking the arduous task of removing ornaments, packing away lights, and ultimately ridding our house of the needle-dropping tree the following day. Wanting to soften the blow and honor the emotions they felt, I offered a solution: “What about a living room slumber party?”
And so that night, my girls with their wispy curls and pitter-pattering feet made their way down the stairs, arms laden with pillows, blankets, and more than a few stuffies. I set up sleeping bags, and we settled in, leaving only the Christmas tree’s lights on.
Each year this tradition gets more and more difficult to carry out as our family grows both in number and size. My girls, now teenagers, don’t fit quite as nicely on the living room floor next to their ten-year-old brothers as they once did. When Dad decides to join, his snoring typically sends him back to bed earlier than the rest of us. The extraneous light creeping in from the windows and the unsupportive couch cushions make it difficult for me to get any real rest. Truth be told, no one involved really gets much sleep. But let’s be honest: Sleeping really isn’t the main objective.
But each “last night,” as I lie there in the glow, surrounded by the children God has entrusted to me, I smile, despite feeling a little melancholy. For I know that the serenity of this night, the twinkling of these lights, and the coziness of this room will soon fade, but the reason we celebrate never will, and all of it will pale in comparison to the glory that awaits us.
Melissa Anne Kreuser
Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 110, Number 12
Issue: December 2023
- Parent conversations: How can parents and kids manage stress?
- Parent conversations: What do your prayers for your children include?
- Parent conversations: How do we resist making our parenting law-based?
- Parent conversations: What Bible passages do you turn to most as a parent?
- Parent conversations: How can we help kids develop positive, healthy habits?
- Parent conversations: What tactics do you use to encourage children to tackle difficult tasks?
- Parent conversations: How can we model good listening skills for our kids?
- Parent conversations: How do we help our kids move on from mistakes?
- Parent conversations: How can we instill gratitude in our children?
- Parent conversations: How can parents find the balance between being too restrictive and too permissive?
- Parent conversations: How can we teach kids to be good friends?
- Parent conversations: What life skills will help young people as they transition to adulthood?
- Parent conversations: How do we discuss death with our children?
- Parent conversations: What does it look like for a father to be a strong Christian leader?
- Parent conversations: How can we help young adults stay engaged in the church?
- Parent conversations: What do parents need to know about video games?
- Parent conversations: How do parents not let worry get the best of them?
- Parent conversations: How do we teach our kids to value all people?
- Parent conversations: When parenting philosophies differ
- Parent conversations: How can we help today’s overwhelmed teens?
- Parent conversations: How can parents maintain a healthy marriage?
- Parent conversations: You might be a Lutheran parent if . . .
- Parent conversations: Parenting post–high school: What is a parent’s role?
- Parent conversations: How can families use the hymnal in their worship life at home?
- Parent conversations: What should Christian parents teach their children about gender?
- Parent conversations: What is vocation? How does it apply to parenting?
- Parent conversations: Why do siblings fight? How should I react when they are fighting?
- Parent conversations: How do we teach children resilience?
- Parent conversations: How do I approach vaccines as a Christian parent?
- Parent conversations: How can I explain the Sixth Commandment to a young child?
- Parent conversations: How can I help my child have an optimistic outlook?
- Parent conversations: What if we can’t follow our Christmas traditions this year?
- Parent conversations: What are ways to foster a rich prayer life in children?
- Parent conversations: How can I let the gospel shine as I parent?
- Parent conversations: How should I handle a child’s separation anxiety?
- Parent conversations: How should families prepare to go back to school?
- Parent conversations: How does a teen’s brain work?
- Parent conversations: How much should I monitor my child online?
- Parent conversations: How can parents reassure children during an uncertain time?
- Parent conversations: How can I stay calm when my child is out of control?
- Parent conversations: Should I give something up for Lent?
- Parent conversations: How can I keep my child engaged in attending church?
- Parent conversations: How can we help a stressed-out kid?
- Parent conversations: How can we nurture a proper view of “stuff”?
- Parent conversations: How involved should parents be in a child’s homework?
- Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Are we modeling kindness for our children?
- Heart to heart: Parent conversations: What’s the best parenting advice you’ve received or given?
- Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How should we handle it when people undermine our parenting decisions?
- Parent conversations: How can we prepare children for summer camp?
- Heart to heart: Parent conversations: What’s a parent’s role as a child dates?
- Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How do parents find contentment?
- Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How can we help a family with a sick parent?
- Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How can parents model healthy cell phone use?
- Parent conversations: How can we protect kids without scaring them?
- Parent conversations: What does your family’s bedtime routine look like?
- Parent conversations: What do I need to consider before I give my child a cell phone?
- Parent conversations: How can we teach gentleness and strength at the same time?
- Parent conversations: What should we do when our children grow silent?
- Parent conversations: What should we teach our children about the Reformation?
- Parent conversations: How can we raise a generation that cherishes life?
- Parent conversations: How does a parent’s role change over time?
- Parent conversations: How should I handle a disagreement with my child’s teacher?
- Parent conversations: What are the building blocks of a strong parent/child relationship?
- Parent conversations: What is our goal as parents?
- Parent conversations: What Christmas traditions do you cherish in your family?
- Parent conversations: What are the best Bible story books for family devotions?