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Our Christmas Stories
Our hearts are a work in progress, always being formed by the way we individually and corporately give attention. Christmas gifts are good and lovely things, worthy of our attention. If we share joyful appreciation for gifts given, our hearts grow in joy. But if we are consumed with the gifts and fail to appreciate the givers, our hearts grow in selfishness. Likewise, Christmas meals are good and lovely, worthy of our attention. If while sharing a Christmas meal, we express interest in and appreciation for the food and one another, our hearts grow in joy. If around the table, preoccupied with self, we fail to demonstrate care and genuine appreciation, our hearts grow sick. When joyfully given and gratefully received, Christmas gifts and shared meals are good and lovely, composing a beautiful part of our personal Christmas stories.
We are always telling a story, sometimes intentionally, more often unconsciously. Every personal interaction is part of a shared narrative and, thus, has something of the story to it. All Christmas day, we will be telling each other a story. What will that story be? Most of us retell the story we were told as children, though modified by spousal and cultural expectations. What was good about our childhood Christmas story? What is good about our current expectations for Christmas? What is less than the best? For the children’s sake, what would we have different? Bringing up children well, even on Christmas, especially on Christmas, requires a measure of reflection and intentionality. To what should we give attention? Is that attention joyful or anxious?
No Christmas is complete without giving attention to the definitive Christmas story. After the dishes are washed and put away, after the gifts are put aside, and before the youngest is off to bed:
- Gather as a family.
- Let each tell of things for which she/he is feeling grateful.
- Let father or mother read the Christmas story.
- Together retell the story.
- Together, consider: What is wonderful about the Christian story? What is important about the Christmas story?
- Pray with gratitude for the first Christmas and for today’s Christmas.
THE CHRISTMAS STORY
Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, …who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So, they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying, and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.