Remembering the season through meaningful traditions

By Lisa Dove, guest post
What makes Christmas, Christmas?  Is Christmas tangible?  Can it be purchased at the five-and-dime?  Yes, there truly is a “spirit” of Christmas, and I believe it’s tangible. Christmas spirit can happen in many different ways, but these special moments share a beautiful sentiment: thinking more about others and less about ourselves.
As the Christmas season unfolds you feel a bit of magical wonder in the air.  During Christmas, compassion increases, and we smile at the man ringing the bell for our spare change. For months in advance, we plan the perfect gift for our children, sister, mom, spouse.
Consider the ways we can bring deeper meaning to Christmas:
Traditions: Traditions cause a beautiful melancholy as we reminisce about past holidays. My 30-something children say listening to Amy Grant sing “This Is My Grown Up Christmas List” is a memorable family tradition. Most families have long-lasting traditions for ways to decorate the tree, which goodies to bake, and they watch their favorite Christmas movies year after year after year.
Music: Holiday music gives a sense of well-being, oft times bringing us cheer and peace that transcends age, gender, and religious beliefs. Christmas would not be Christmas without the tradition of music. I look forward to the day after Thanksgiving when Christmas music plays constantly on the radio. I admit, I may have been caught rocking out to Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
Service: The most meaningful way to celebrate this holiday season is through kind acts of service. Why do we need to wait for Christmas to serve one another? Charity and doing good toward our fellow man is a tangible substance. Our time is tangible, and the gift of our time is the most precious gift of all.
When we think more of others, we think less of ourselves. Service is the best antidote for loneliness or self-pity.  Children need to understand the comfort they enjoy. For instance, they can help make sack lunches for the homeless. With a bag in hand, a kind smile, and a friendly “Merry Christmas,” someone’s day will be happier and less lonely. Or have your children donate a few of their toys to a women’s or children’s shelter; not their worn-out toys, but some of their nice toys. Another idea is to pay it forward (literally) by paying for the person standing behind you at Starbucks or treat the car waiting behind you to a free meal.
I can’t help but empathize with those who are alone or have lost a loved one. The first holiday is noticeably empty. My wish is for no one to be alone at Christmas and, in a better world, everyone should feel loved. If you are going to spend Christmas alone, plan something to look forward to. Get away for a few days. Plan a nature hike. Sign up in advance for a way to volunteer. Treat yourself to something you’ve wanted to do, but simply haven’t taken the time. It is healthy to give yourself a gift; it’s a celebration after all.
The other evening, I noticed, anew, my nativity. I looked at each figurine and animal, keeping in mind their roles. The nativity figures had a common posture; each knelt or stood in reverence. From Joseph and Mary, to the wise men and shepherds, the little company approached the newborn king with a demeanor of admiration. Joseph’s eyes show emotion and awe. Mary sits sweetly beholding her babe as only a mother can. The Three Magi from afar approach the Savior with shoulders rounded and bodies bent forward, seeking after Him. Shepherds are amazed and the sheep silent, looking upon the holy scene. Every participant offers gifts of adoration, devotion, love.
I try my best to sense how the scene unfolded in Bethlehem, how it must have felt to be part of a moment considered the greatest event in the history of the world. One starry night, long, long ago, in a lowly manger lies the newborn King: Christ the Lord. Oh come, let us adore Him!
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