Some traditions begin on a whim, and yet in their simplicity, they become a profound bedrock of family celebrations, rich in meaning and steeped in value. And it’s not until we’re given a glimpse backward that we realize how they’ve imprinted faith on our hearts and grounded us in hope for the future.
I remember it began early in our marriage, with a simple “baby’s first Christmas” ornament, hung on a short, barren tree, between a few golden baubles.
Like most young couples starting out, we didn’t have an excess of anything. We lived in a tiny parsonage and had scarcely enough extra to decorate our first Christmas tree. By the time our first child came along, our tree still lacked ornaments, but our hopes and dreams for what we wanted for our children was never lacking.
We wanted them to expect God
We wanted them to see God
We wanted them to experience God
And more than anything else, we wanted them to know that God loved them and was always working good in their lives…even when good was hard to find. Even if they were naughty or nice.
So without a lot of thought for what it would look like in the end, we began a simple family tradition of expecting, seeing and experiencing. All to create a moment of knowing and a lifetime of faith.
We kept a running list of milestones for each of the children, and during the weeks leading up to Christmas, we selected a specific ornament as a memorial marker of God’s presence all year long.
Most years it seemed the list required us to narrow the focus in order to choose just one. The more we expected God, the more we saw Him in each other’s lives. The more we saw Him, the more we experienced His unwavering love and protection over our days.
The blessing of a pet or 1st place in the Science Fair
A baptism, a new hobby or a forever best friend
A first job or a first car
Scholarships, diplomas or degrees
The tradition of each child opening a single ornament to commemorate God working in their lives through the year became a treasured part of our Christmas celebration. The faith which grew from a tiny package revealed on Christmas Eve still marks the hearts of my children. It marks all of us.
And when I hear them recount something that happened in their day with the acknowledgment of, “it was a God moment” I know the seed of faith has not only been planted, but it’s firmly rooted in their hearts.
29 years have passed since the first ornament was hung on that tiny, barren tree. It’s no surprise that in the raising of 3 children, our Christmas tree has also grown through the years. Now, boxes with each child’s name sit, filled with delicate, tissue-wrapped ornaments. Ornaments which tell a story and memorial markers that lay a timeline of living.
Our tree decorating has become so much more than a sweet time of gathering and hanging pretty baubles on evergreen branches.
It’s become a rich time of remembering. A time of counting and reliving memories. And a time of inviting God to weave the truth of his grace and mercy deeper into our souls. Not for just a day, but for an entire year. Each and every year.
“I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a luxuriant cypress that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Hosea 14:8
Crystal is an advocate of living outside of comfort zones as a means to unlocking hidden potential and experiencing God’s wild and uncontainable love. She writes on combining a little bit of intention with a lot of passion to create an overwhelming legacy of hope. She is the proud mother of a Professor of History, a Worship Pastor and a soon-to-be Biologist and also loves fresh markets, lattes and all things French.