If you had told me as little as three years ago that this Christmas we’d have an electric train that puffs real smoke running around our tree, be going on family outings to pick up seashells along an Alaska beach, or learning to make baklava—I would have been surprised (delightfully so).
Interspersed with the unexpected things, are the old familiar traditions we carry with us to a new place, teaching the next generation of my family how to successfully roll out lefse without it sticking to the board or hanging up the favorite ornaments we’ve collected over the years while remembering the beloved people and places they represent for us.
Then there are the old mixed with new, like going caroling, as we have many times over the years, but with new people in new places. Little kids acting out the same old story with brand new energy. Listening to the favorite old carols and festive songs on repeat, but also learning a new one or two. A new Christmas sweater for a growing little boy; favorite hand-me-down Christmas dresses pulled out of totes to pass down to the next girl in line.
I have not yet spoken about the “wished for”, but there is always a little of that, too, like wishing that family was coming to visit, or that eggnog would go down in price.
This is the Christmas of the present (not to be confused with the Christmas of the presents), full of an assortment of new experiences and old traditions, hopes filled and wishes ungranted. The old, the new, the not-yet—every year it is thus. Sometimes, we miss the present living too longingly in the future; sometimes, we miss the present by living too wistfully in the past. Hopefully, though, more often we are living fully in the present, fully embracing the imperfect yet unique gift of NOW, that will never come again.
Thankfully, there is One thing about Christmas that is never old, new or yet-to-come, but always present—and His constancy is the real reason we celebrate the same thing every year, our perfectly enacted cherished traditions, our humble and fumbled attempts at festivity, even our highest and frequently dashed expectations of the season, all mere and (if we’re being honest) unworthy gestures of awe at the wonder that the great I AM wittingly entered time and space and flesh—for us.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come forth for Me One to be ruler over Israel—One whose origins are of old, from the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)
“In the beginning, O Lord, You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed; but You remain the same, and Your years will never end.” (Hebrews 1:10-12)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)