by Dr. Tony L. Lynn
PLYMOUTH, MI – During the 1970s, before streaming, DVD’s, video-recorders, and devices that play whatever you want to watch, whenever you want to watch it – watching colorful Christmas specials on the one night they were broadcast on national TV was a national pastime. I can remember a chorus of us pleading, as school children, begging our moms not to take us Christmas shopping but instead to remain at home so we could watch the Christmas cartoons. We knew our favorite Christmas special would be on for thirty-minutes and if we missed it, we would have to wait an entire year before we could drift into Christmas fantasies and dreams again.
I recall friends and cousins playing together in the snow just before our moms yelled, “It’s time to come in for the Christmas special.” Minutes before 8:00 pm, we rushed into the entrance of the house crowding shoulder to shoulder trying to catch our balance as we leaned on one another pulling off our snowy boots by pushing down on the heel of one boot with the toe of the other boot. Bath towels were laid on the floor by our wise mothers to capture the snow making our every lean and move all the tipsier. It was hilarious!
With each child down to insulated underwear and a heap of scattered, soggy winter outerwear covering the entrance floor, we scurried to our bedrooms to change into our pajamas while mothers magically made the snowy, wet mess at the doorway disappear into the washer and dryer. I still remember my mom bringing clothes and towels from the dryer and cascading an avalanche of warm, floral smelling loads of laundry on us to warm us up. My sisters, while giggling, would grab as much of the toasty laundry as they could and cover themselves as they inhaled the aroma.
As we perched on the sofa in front of the TV, from the kitchen the scraping sound of a large spoon circling the bottom of a pan on the stove could be heard as Mom methodically kept the Nestle’s Quick from sticking to the bottom of the pan. She would carefully heat the milk to the warmth where it would thicken, but never become so hot it would burn us while we sipped it. I have never forgotten her ritual of love.
I also have a lingering question about Christmas tree tinsel, or as our family called them, “icicles.” Whatever became of the mountain of tinsel stacked-up as blue light specials at K-Mart? As I look back on my childhood, I think Dad had a package of tinsel or two set out near the Christmas tree all season long. Why?
Tinsel packages were there for two reasons. First, because the tinsel would disappear from the tree. Static electricity would make the tinsel stick to clothing or hair of those who got too near the tree while shaking wrapped boxes. I also remember my parents pulling tinsel from the coats or clothing of guests at the backdoor before they departed from merely stepping too close to the Christmas tree to look at the ornaments. Second, my dad from the vantage spot of his favorite living room chair, would see a bare spot that needed more tinsel. He would quietly rise, take a sip from his cup or a break from cracking walnuts or pecans, and slide tinsel from the package then strategically lay the icicle on a branch, one-tinsel-at-a-time. That was his ritual of love along with providing all the walnuts and pecans one could eat.
So now that you have read about a few rituals of love during my childhood, I must ask, “What rituals of love are you going to share with your family and friends this Christmas season?” Having trouble identifying some? Here are some suggestions for your consideration:
1. Close devices & open the oven
Candy, cookies, and crumbles! There are all kinds of recipes that can fill a family night. It is not about being an expert chef, it is about exploring the kitchen with loved ones while devices are set to silent or turned off and stowed away. Make that semi transparent candy that you break up like broken glass. Bake cookies with aromas like ginger. Take a big risk and make your own Baptist eggnog. Set-up and cleaning the kitchen are part of the activity. Everyone will go to bed with smiles on their faces.
2. Shovel driveways & play music
For those looking for fitness or mission driven activities, clear the sidewalks or driveways of those you want to invite to church or into your lives to discover Christ. Take that portable speaker from home with you and Bluetooth some great Christian music while the snow is piled up. Take along a lawn chair or two and invite the person you are helping to sit outside with you in conversation while you work. It is not just about clearing away the snow, it is about the connection with a person or people.
3. Snuggle up & watch Christmas specials
Has life been too busy? Did self-care slide low on the priority list? Then create a makeshift cozy living room or family room where everyone can wear their comfort clothes while they snuggle up around an uplifting Christmas special or Christmas movie classic. Turn down the lights and burn some candles. Remember to make it simple and easy with great snacks and drinks. Adjust the temperature to make the blankets and throws necessary. It is about snuggling, cuddling, and finding that calm.
4. Play games & ask questions
Playing an aggressive game of chaotic spoons then transitioning to quieter box games or Uno or Crazy 8 or pairing off with chess and checkers is a great way to listen to the latest updates on the lives of those around you. This tradition is about remaining aware of what those closest to you are going through. Too often, as adults, we drive conversations when it is more important to listen to others talk about themselves. Here are some helpful questions to ask of your adult children, your grandchildren, and friends.
Looking back on this past year, what was the biggest change or discovery for you?
Where did you see God at work in your life this past year?
Want to tell me about any new friends in your life or about someone who has become an even better friend?
What were the biggest challenges you faced this past year?
Can you tell me what is keeping you busy because you must do it, and what is keeping you busy because you enjoy it?
5. Read Scripture & pray generously
Search google for "Advent Scriptures" and read daily either alone for private reflection or with others as part of a shared anticipation for Christmas. Advent is that season between November 27 to December 24 when we celebrate God becoming man in the flesh and anticipating Christ’s Second Coming. This holiday season offers us as Christians an obvious platform upon which we can talk about our readings and our prayers for a better world. Others expect us to celebrate what is important to us. Let us not disappoint them. May we express with sincere enthusiasm and compassion our love for the Lord and for others through our personal rituals of love.
I hope your reading this far has invoked some pleasant rituals of love from your earlier years. Even more, I hope rekindling your ideas will inspire you to set aside time for those in your life. Your rituals may supply what they need in the future, or it may inspire them to create their own rituals of love. This celebration is a tradition worth highlighting.
John 1:14, says it best, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tony L. Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.