The warmth of the decorations that were hung in December has given way to empty mantles. Although the twelve days of Christmas do not end until Epiphany, January 6, the traditional time of Christmas celebrated in most homes comes to a close.
Growing up in a ‘traditional’ southern home I was under the impression that everyone celebrated Christmas in basically the same manner- families coming together with laughter, food and the exchanging of gifts. Gradually I came to realize that Christmas is celebrated in different ways, and, to a large extent, those differences have been handed down through our families for generations. I have become increasingly aware that traditions are not being handed down to the younger generation. The fact that our personal family is a part of a much larger family (God’s family) and because the larger family appears to be being placed in the peripheral of our communities and in our lives causes concern. God and the reason for Christmas has been with us from the beginning, however, the adoration and the intensity of the season appear to be left to musicals, church services and similar activities. Our task, which must be taken by every family, and especially parents raising small children, is to tell the story of the traditions. If not, the generations to come will not capture the true glory of Christmas.
In the bitter wind of January we stand huddled together pondering how we can make a difference in this New Year. As we stand in the doorway of time I am reminded of the story of Saint Francis of Assisi, the noted religious leader, who gave up a very wealthy and aristocratic position to start several monasteries. On this one occasion Saint Francis was preparing to go into the village when he asked one of the members of the monastery if he would accompany him. Excited about going with Saint Francis, the monk with great anticipation said he would be delighted. His anticipation was born out of the many sermons Saint Francis had given and the manner in which he represented the very essence of God.
Throughout the trip to the village the monk kept waiting for Saint Francis to give a sermon or wise counsel to the many merchants he greeted . Upon returning to the monastery Saint Francis asked the monk how he enjoyed his visit. The monk related his enjoyment but was concerned why Saint Francis had not given any sermons. Saint Francis said “I did, I gave sermons everywhere I went and in everything I said.”
What a great challenge. This year I will give a sermon everywhere I go, and if necessary I will use words. When 2014 comes to an end I will be able to say, “There was room in the Inn.”