From the Desk of Pastor Clay

“While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have the baby. She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger - there was no room for them to stay in the inn." 
(Luke 2:6-7, Good News Translation)
When Traditions Go Awry, Christmas Happens!
What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Mine coincide with different stages in my life. For a long time, Christmas Eve was spent at the Gregory United Methodist Church and then over to Grandma and Grandpa O’Neill’s house, and Christmas Day was at Grandma Lundberg’s house. The nice thing is that all my grandparents lived in Gregory, so pulling this off was no real feat for our family. The best part of our Christmas at grandparents was the treats. My Grandma Doris Lundberg baked the best bread, and the aroma enveloped her entire home. Grandma Mary, on the other hand, baked all kinds of Christmas goodies, but my favorite was always her Haystacks (or Chinese New Year Cookies).
After my Grandma O’Neill passed away in 2003, Christmas Eve shifted over to Burke, SD, at my Aunt Peg’s house, and the meal became all our favorite soups and salads. Each of us had our own mug picked especially for us by Aunt Peg (Mine had a snowman on it), and our night would inevitably end with a game of Nerts, a card game that’s sort of like a competitive version of solitaire. After a few years of soup-and-sandwich, we shifted to Crabby Christmas (crab legs), but we kept the Nerts.
These traditions have taken on several different iterations now that all my cousins and I are older and have children of our own. My favorite tradition right now with my family, Linse and the kids, is what we do around presents: one want, one need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read.
The key of all the traditions is not the activities themselves; the key is the people with whom I did the activities: grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, kids, church family, etc.
As you read this, we are preparing to celebrate Christmas here in the church and in our homes. Your traditions are coming together. Maybe you’re having a conversation that sounds like my family’s conversation: “What are we doing this year? Oh, the same thing we do every year? Great.” Despite how much we plan and rely on traditions to carry us through, what happens when it all falls apart? Christmas happens.
As we think about the Christmas story in scripture, we discover the greatest gift that we never expected. And we discover that first Christmas was not perfect. A very-pregnant Mary and her fiancé Joseph were forced to travel to Bethlehem for a census only to find no room at the inn. The time for the baby to be born came while they sought refuge around a warm manger to give birth to a baby boy. Unimpressive shepherds show up, and Mary is comforted by the sights and sounds (and the smells) of an Israeli stable. Talk about traditions going awry...
No matter how it happens, Christmas is about a time of being with those that we love and cherish. Christmas is about bringing people together from all different walks of life. Christmas is about memories being made, memories that will last a lifetime, where traditions are born, and life is able to change. Christmas is about us gathering in the house of God to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.
Let us join together on this journey, to seek our Lord, with family, friends, and loved ones near. Let us make memories that fill and warm our hearts. Just like the memories of Christmases past continue to warm us and move us onward. Although our past Christmases weren’t perfect, they’ve shaped us into who we are today. The memories that we make this Christmas will carry forward and to shape us into who we will become. When we remember Jesus and share his love with others, Christmas happens.
In Christ’s love,