Christmas hasn’t been the same for seven years now. I could give you the whole litany of why, but suffice to say, there have been several life shifts that have forever altered what the Christmas experience is for me. I am by nature an extremely traditional woman. Any of my friends and family will tell you that. I cherish the repeated rituals that establish constancy and familiarity. It did my heart wonders last weekend to see the needlework mailbox ornament with my name on it hanging from my mom’s Christmas tree. Bert and Ernie were there as well, along with other ornaments that were obviously created by the seven year old (and under) Leslie Ruth. Last year, Mom had to FedEx my stocking to TX because it just had to be under the tree come Christmas morning.
Marriage has brought a few new traditions to my wonderfully stocked cupboard of rituals. Last year, Jason and I decided to purchase a new ornament for each other every Christmas that symbolized something from the past year. Last year he gave me a bride ornament (for obvious reasons) and I gave him a golf shoe because he had so enjoyed the golfing he did at The Governor’s Club the day before our wedding. On Christmas morning, instead of Moravian Sugar Cake, I now partake of the Christmas Kringle. Not as sugary, but still yummy. Despite our meager purse, the tradition of stockings thankfully still resides in the Petree home! I love stockings. All the fun little surprises that come spilling out on Christmas morn. They are things that I might not usually buy for myself but seem appropriately luxurious inside the long hand knit stocking with my name at the top. I discovered last year that Jason didn’t have a stocking that was just his, one that had been his for years and years like mine. So I found one befitting of a man and sewed antique buttons along the top. It will be filled by me…I mean, by Santa for years to come now. I love traditions, new and old.
However, seeing that my life has been nothing but change for the last year and a half, I’ve had to adjust my perspective on tradition. As Jason and I approach our second Christmas filled with more changes and even more uncertainty, I’m worried that a new tradition is starting to take root. Will I always associate Christmas with change, up rootedness, cause to cringe? Because after two years of really rough upheavals around the end of December, that is where I sit.
For the last few weeks, Christmas has felt hopeless- the absolute antithesis of what it truly is. Christmas is hope, born of a baby into a world in desperate need of His love and salvation. I found myself completely undone two weeks ago as I watched a live Nativity scene unfolding before me. Here were Mary and Joseph, in the midst of great upheaval and change, shame, doubt, tremendous uncertainty. Yet, there they were, faithful to God’s call, loving each other deeply in the midst of it all and looking into the eyes of the greatest Hope they would ever know. So maybe that is what I take with me from this season. Next December, will I cringe and wonder what new or unwanted change lies just around the corner? Probably. But I hope that greater than my fear will be the peaceful knowledge that Hope and Love stand larger and more firmly than any change could dare to shake.