Take the Christmas Tree. Real, fake, or the Charlie Brown style, it’s a tradition that stands tall and proud with a halo of a thousand points of light–pointing us to the light of Christ. One friend takes it a step further and keeps a life-sized old school ceramic Baby Jesus under the tree as a focal point for the eyes and hearts.
At our house, we have those that we cherish with all our hearts. Three sets of feather angel wings symbolize our babies we will meet the other side of heaven someday. (We get that angels are angels and people are people and never the two shall mix, but this is the closest thing we could come up with.) When our psycho bird dog went hunting on our tree, retrieving one in his mouth, our hearts clenched in terror. Thankfully, it was gingerly removed, as was the dog to reside outdoors.
But our family’s personality tends to be more haphazard as does our accidental traditions. Like the Gravy Cat, a ceramic creamer one of the kids put gravy in as a joke one year. Because the hilarious reactions of having a cat puke on the mashed potatoes, it has been dragged out every one since–except the last time, no one seemed to notice it’s absence. Shhh…some traditions are best left to run out their nine lives.
But others take on a spirit of their own. 30 years ago this Christmas, Cliff and I had our first Christmas together. A freshly cut (free) cedar tree stood like a tumbleweed with straggly octopus branches. Twenty years of my folks’ one-ornament-a-year tradition had paid off, but the tree was still pretty sparse.
As a joke, Cliff took a silver-lidded Skoal can, put a ribbon on it, and hung it on the tree–to see if I would scream, of course. I laughed, and it stayed. After Christmas, I guess I packed it away with the others. After all, Dec 1982 was stamped on the bottom of the thick cardboard tobacco container.
Today, it’s lid is tarnished, but it is quite honored among the silver and crystal ornaments, the gold ribbons, and sparkly white lights. Perhaps those decorations sense they would not be here if not for this revered veteran.
And when the kids place it on the tree, for a sacred moment, one would almost swear to hearing a choir of monks singing in unison, and the lights shine a little brighter.
You see, through the years this can, carrying a surgeon’s general’s warning of death has been transformed into a symbol of love and faithfulness. As redneck as its roots, its purpose is holy…
..much like a feeding tough transformed to cradle a King.
..much like a form of execution became a literal crossroads for salvation, redemption, love, and extravagant grace.
There would be no Christmas without it.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
So have you looked at what your impromptu traditions have transformed into? What niggles your heart to be intentional about? Are their traditions that need to go the way of the gravy cat?
Photo credit: my own