You are probably in the middle of plans either to “go home” or to prepare for family and friends who are “coming home.” The foods you are preparing have a history with your family and just thinking about them brings back waves of memories: grandma’s pumpkin pies, Aunt Lillie’s banana pudding, mother’s homemade yeast rolls. Even the recipes cards are smudged with fingerprints made by mamma’s butter-covered hand or a drop or two of turkey broth someone smeared on the page as they stirred in the now familiar ingredients.
The tables will be set soon with linens someone gave you, and the arrangement of the house will likely be the way it was last year that seemed to work best for a crowd. You may go out and cut the flowers for the tables from the rosebush Aunt Evelyn started for you or the hydrangea your daughters sent to celebrate your twenty-fifth anniversary. And the autumn or Christmas candles will be set in the crystal candle holders that came from dad’s side of the family.
If you stop to consider, you will, like our family, find yourself being so grateful for the long line of memory-makers that have made life rich and beautiful, who taught by being thoughtful, caring, generous and selfless what is truly important in life.
There may be other memories, too, those memories that made you vow to “never say that to a child” or “always notice when someone is lonely.” Negative memories shape us, too. We can choose to take a different course, to forgive instead of holding grudges, to embrace instead of pushing away.
Rituals are those habits we make in celebrating what is good and sacred and important. They are sometimes the motions we go through – the framework of our lives that holds us together until the more worthy emotions return after love has been betrayed or promises broken. Rituals and heirlooms help us remember our better selves, our purer natures, our more admirable moments. They call us home to our ideals and reestablish our center of being.
In the end Jesus is the only ideal against which all else can safely be measured. He is the center of our joy. He is the ground of our gratitude. He is the focus of our family celebrations. He is the Source of all that does not disappoint.
May this be the year where like a magnet draws metal, your family and ours will be drawn to the centering force, the only inexhaustible Source for all we expect from holiday relationships: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, long suffering, forgiveness, tenderness…and great memories!