Christian holy days always leave me with a dilemma about how they are appropriately celebrated or sometimes even whether we should celebrate them at all [Colossians 2:16]. Since the analytical and reflective part of my mind is shutting down after a semester of work, let me simply describe how we have celebrated Christmas in our home over the past two decades.

Reading Luke 2 and/or Matthew 1 sometimes with commentary or exhortation by an elder, singing Christmas carols, and praying together have preceded the exchange of gifts for generations before mine. This more formal time was always accompanied by a feast and games around the table or out of doors. We have continued these traditions and added a few of our own adaptations. Before we pray together we generally share with each other about the pains and pleasures of the year about to close. Since the advent of Samaritan’s Purse and their “shoebox” program we decided that we would also give our children a shoebox with small gifts [socks, underwear, toothbrush and paste, a CD, a book, etc. no electronic devices] in order to nurture some awareness and solidarity with those less fortunate. We also have a nativity scene with wooden carvings that usually springs to life during the reading of Jesus’ birth narrative. We started a tradition of home made pizza because we got turkey at both extended family gatherings. The exact day when all this happens has never been consistent because it often depended on if and when we gathered with our extended families, but when we moved away from extended families we most often went to church Christmas Eve and had our family Christmas rituals on December 25.

Recently, as our young adult children are going and coming and going, some of our traditions are changing. Last year we abandoned the shoe boxes for suitcases and this year we are renting a vacation home for a few days instead of buying gifts. The day is again more flexible and the most important thing for us as parents has become quality time with our independent children.

Merry Christmas to all who reside in cyber space where Santa dwells comfortably, but Jesus came in the flesh and is most at home there still.