We attended a fantastic, intimate concert last night featuring Anthony Evans, son of “the shouting preacher” Tony Evans, and Melinda Doolittle, finalist on the sixth season of American Idol. The singing was, of course, phenomenal. We loved how they seamlessly wove together fun holiday songs like This Christmas and Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song with Christ-centered powerhouses such as O Holy Night and Evans’ Immanuel. They even invited us to sing along on some worship standards. Solid all around.
But, as I’ve come to appreciate about many artists in live shows, it was when the music stopped and they just talked about their lives that I really felt like we got to know them. Anthony shared how he and his siblings would pick the lock into their parents’ bedroom to make sure they got up on Christmas morning (albeit at 4 AM), then would patiently sit through a family devotional before the presents and eating (and eating and eating) began. He said that even decades later, that family tradition is still so powerful for him. That got me to thinking, what Christmas traditions would I be lost without?
The Burden traditions begin on Christmas Eve. I always remember piling into the van to look at Christmas lights, with Dad usually planning out the route meticulously via the published best neighborhoods in the Manhattan Mercury. When a house had no lights at all, we would chide them as Scrooges. We would get to open one gift each before bed, just to take the edge off a little. We still did this one even a couple years ago, long past our respective ages of sophistication. Mom and Dad would allow Santa to mix in some of their presents for us along with his, just to make the overnight growth of the pile all the more awe-inspiring. Talk about great PR! Christmas morning always began with stockings, including ones for the animals. New catnip and chew toys were a hit every time. To the sounds of Johnny Mathis, Percy Faith, and the wonderful compilations like A Very Special Christmas, Best of Christmas, and of course the Time Life Treasury, we would only break from the present frenzy long enough to grab coffee cake (which gradually morphed into cinnamon rolls). Those traditions absolutely define Christmas for me.
Rene’s family Christmases typically meant heading for western Kansas to join extended family. They would celebrate Jesus’ birthday together when they were back in KC, complete with a cake and Happy Birthday sung to Jesus. Mike (Sr.) usually shares a Scripture passage for the coming year. Apparently they also liked to have everyone pose for a group picture with all their gifts for the day. I got to join in on these new traditions the past 6 years – what fun.
Whether in Manhattan or Kansas City, I have come to cherish the candlelight service at whichever church we could get to. We love having the Olathe Campus of our church right on the way out of town. We can catch the 4:00 service and still make it to Manhattan in time to see lights. For the past 17-18 years of following the Christ child with my life, I have looked forward every Christmas Eve to the transformation from darkness to brilliant candlelight to an a capella rendition of Silent Night. What a tremendous picture of John 1:9 – “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”
What are your family traditions around Christmas?