Christmas Box: Presents and Presence

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!” –Charles Dickens

IMG_4242bMerry Christmas from me and Princess Belle! Isn’t she cute?

Belle is our lovely 6-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, and she’s great friends with my sister’s dog Foxy.

My family has a few traditions on Christmas Eve: 1) Early dinner out in Missoula before… 2) attending and participating in the Christmas Eve service at Living Savior Lutheran Church, where afterwards we drive home and… 3) before anyone changes out of dress clothes, my siblings and I pose for a photo on the stairs next to the Christmas tree.

Having our picture taken right when we arrive home isn’t the most appealing thing to us, but we understand why our parents wish to document the occasion… after all, we are limited in the number of times we can spend Christmas Eve all together. (It just won’t be practical in the future when my siblings and I eventually start families of our own.) So for now, we keep the picture tradition… and my sister and I add a few photos of us and our family dogs into the mix, just for fun!

Once the pictures are done, we change into comfy clothes, finish the chores with the outside animals (horses, dogs, cats, etc.), and fix some fun snacks and ‘munchies’… until finally taking turns opening gifts from under the Christmas tree. Who doesn’t like opening presents as time drifts from Christmas Eve into Christmas Day? (…well, maybe the non-night owls/early birds find it a tad difficult…). Then for Christmas Day, we host dinner with our close family friends and later open small presents from the stockings hung above the fireplace.

All these things have become meaningful traditions for my family. Yet I threw a wrench into our Christmas Eve tradition last winter, since I was flying out to Wisconsin on Christmas Day for a December wedding. It made me realize that we probably didn’t get a sibling picture last year (gasp!!). We changed up the routine so we could open presents on December 23rd and stocking gifts after church on Christmas Eve. The tradition felt different… yet in my mind, nothing had truly changed. The holiday didn’t feel too goofed up or irreplaceably altered. How could that be?

It’s not all about the particular activities at specific times on certain days. It’s not an all-or-nothing event to open presents on Christmas Eve.

It’s about the presence of the people around us… the family and friends dear to our hearts and the warmth in our souls. It’s the presence of a holy God who willingly brought himself down to our level as a helpless baby born in an animal barn. It’s the presence of that same God who lived and died and lives again, purchasing our freedom from sin at the greatest possible price. It is His presence with us still as we live each and every day of our lives.

No matter how traditions adapt or remain the same, we find meaning in the joy we share with one another. I don’t know about you, but my favorite kinds of presents will always hold the deepest meaning when shared in the presence of my loved ones.

Merry Christmas, everyone! 

Love, Chrissy

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.” –Alexander Smith

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