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Posted December 20, 2009


Through the years, I've passed on family traditions and even instigated a new one or two. The most important tradition I passed on was the meaning of Christmas. When my girls were small, we found the box each year that housed the nativity scene. I took the girls to the store and let them pick out a new sheep, angel, or camel to add. Once, they purchased a goat. Fine with me. A shepherd needed a glass of milk every now and then. I'd always wanted to own a goat.

We first stood Mary and Joseph next to baby Jesus. Then, I reminded the girls about the shepherds in the fields who watched their flocks by night and how an angel appeared to tell them about the birth of a savior who was Christ the Lord. He would be found wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. So, after searching in Bethlehem and finding the stable with the new born babe, the shepherds glorified and praised God for all the things they had heard and seen.

The three guys riding camels were unwrapped next. I told the girls about the wisemen from the East who had seen the star connected with the king of the Jews. I explained to them about the treasures and gifts they brought - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Marveling at the fact that my children never once asked why Jesus wasn't brought toys from Santa, I smelled a rat. I looked closer and discovered someone had recently bitten off the ring and middle finger of baby Jesus's right hand. It could have been my eldest trying to get my youngest in trouble, but after much thought, I believed the culprit to be my youngest. We had an irreverent biter in our midst. Mary's child lay maimed. I picked him up, kissed his boo-boo and said, "Well Immanuel, before it's all said and done, a lot worse is gonna happen to you." After gently tucking the child back in the manger, I checked the goat to make sure he hadn't been de-horned.

After a good scolding - and not to be outdone - I finished the Christmas story as we herded the shepherd and sheep, and trotted the wisemen's camels closer to the stable. We galloped the goat.

It was a good time to throw in a lesson about when we do bad things, like bite other people, it's called sin. However, Jesus came down from heaven in the form of a human being to teach us that we shouldn't do bad things. But, if we slipped up, and we're later sorry, there was forgiveness. Jesus was sent to save us. Surely, my angelic children had soaked in some of the Christmas love.

Shortly after my mini sermon, the youngest ended up planted in the middle of the evergreen tree after she'd been shoved off the step stool while hanging a gingerbread man. So she could "see better." I know this as truth because the tripod mounted video camera had been running while I whipped up a batch of hot chocolate in the kitchen. So much for toddler sermons. My mother had told me that in the olden days, when kids were fussy, their parents used to give them paragoric - an opium derived product - and rub their aching gums during teething with "brown likker." If I was ever going to spike the red Christmas punch, it would have been then. Wails from the living room were octave-high-close to breaking the china cabinet crystal. I pondered about the Jack Daniel's distillery not too far down the road. Of course, Michael Jackson was belting out "you'd better be good, you'd better think twice, he's gonna find out who's naughty or nice" from the stereo. I took a deep breath and devoured a box of bon bons instead while mumbling, "Help me Jesus. Lord come quickly."

A tradition I concocted and now wish I hadn't, was trying on the Christmas tree skirt - the labor of love. The panels and lace were stitched together from the girls' Christmas dress remnants from baby days. In high school, the girls' friends loved coming over to participate in this tradition. Even I had to stand before the video camera, state the year and my age, and give the skirt a twirl. After the backside of forty and a few years of eating my mother's red velvet cake recipe - another tradition and we'll eventually find out if red food coloring will kill humans if eaten in massive doses - you can understand why I dreaded the twirling tradition. Sucking in and twirling at the same time on hardwood floors can be disastrous.

The Irreverent One

Here's hoping you all start new traditions. Have a Merry Christmas - and to all a good night!

(The Christmas story can be found in the first and second chapters of Matthew and the second chapter of Luke.)

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