What's the real meaning of Christmas? Charlie Brown. Christmas Eve Traditions. Christmas. Jesus. Christmas Story.

"What's the real meaning of Christmas?", a frustrated Charlie Brown asks his friend Linus.

Let's take a journey through some of our family traditions and see if we can help Charlie Brown find the "real" meaning of Christmas. 
Every December our family begins the many traditions that we have done since I was a child.  There is the cutting and decorating of the tree.   The special shopping trip with just mom and daughters.  The trip to Toys R Us with the kids.  The giving of hints to dad as to what he should go buy mom.  And the list goes on.  Then Christmas Eve arrives.  Every Christmas Eve, three generations of my family head to church. As we sit together, sing the Christmas carols, and read the scripture, we can’t help but feel blessed and thankful for the celebration we are here to recognize.   The birth of Jesus.  It seems that although the year that has gone by wasn’t always an easy road; there is peace here. Peace in knowing we have a Savior who loves us through our triumphs and through our struggles.  Peace in knowing that we are surrounded by family.  Family who also loves us through those triumphs and struggles.
But our Christmas Eve doesn’t end there.  As we sing the closing song by candlelight, we are enjoying the moment, but also greatly anticipating what’s to come.
Christmas Eve continues as we arrive at Grandpa and Grandma’s house.  The little ones are excited about the opportunity to open their one traditional Christmas Eve gift.  All other gifts must wait for morning. (I won’t mislead you.  I get excited about that Christmas Eve gift too!) As the children study the gifts, the older children and adults scurry around the house to find as many Bibles as they can.  Then the home is calm.  Well as calm as it gets with 20 excited people.  As everyone here knows, tradition has its order tonight and the gifts are last.  First, it is time to take turns reading the Christmas story from the Bible.  Grandpa assigns verses to everyone and even the early readers give their try at sounding out the words to this precious story of the birth of Jesus. After Jesus is born, the shepherds have come to worship, and the wise men visit, we close our Bibles and sense we are on our way to finding the real meaning of Christmas.
For some reason Grandma’s part of the night makes us all pretty nervous, especially those new comers to the family like the sons in law.  Grandma begins, “Everyone put your name on two slips of paper and put them in the bowl.  Now pass the bowl around and pick out two different names.”  By now the sons in law are sweating a little.
Grandma continues, “We’ll take turns going around to each person.  When we get to the person who’s name you have on your slip you must share with the group something you really love, appreciate, or admire about that person.”  Whew!  Now those sons in law are really sweating…especially the ones who chose the mother in law's name!
As we go around the circle it isn’t long before tears fill our eyes as we share with one another from our hearts what it is that we love about one another.  The words may be from a four-year-old to his daddy.  “I like it when my daddy wrestles me.”  They may be spoken from a father to his son in law.  “Thank you for loving my daughter for being the husband you are to her and the daddy you are to my grandchildren.”  From a husband to his wife. “I appreciate your support through this difficult year.  I love you.” Regardless of the words, they are sincere.  They are full of love.  Yes, even the ones from the sons in law.  I do have to confess.  We do love watching them squirm their first year of sharing. 
After that evening, I can say, “Well Charlie Brown, I found the real meaning of Christmas.”  And it centers around one little word, love.  It all began because of the love our Heavenly Father had for us when he sent His Son to earth as a precious baby boy.  This season, as I celebrate the love He has given me, I will try to share some love with those around me.  I’ll start right now.  I pray you will be blessed this Christmas Season.  May you find the love of Jesus.  When you do, wrap it up in your heart and be ready to give it away to someone you see who needs to receive this most special gift.   And I guarantee that love will be the one gift that you’ll be happy to have returned!

I hope you enjoyed the revisiting of a Christmas Eve spent with our family. The above was actually written and published in the Bay City Times in 2003. That's quite a few years ago!  My youngest children have gone from the youngest in the group, to having cousins and nieces taking that position. My older children have gone from teenagers to married men, bringing their spouses to the group. Since that time, we have also had many other changes. Toys R Us has closed, so that tradition has disappeared. We have gone from a real tree to a fake one, so our Christmas tromping through the snow has also disappeared. And yet, there is a part that is far from disappearing. In fact, it is growing. It is the Christmas Eve tradition explained above. We no longer have three generations heading to church; instead we have four. We no longer have 20 people joining in on the sharing at the grandparents, instead we have about 30. There are a couple new "in-laws" this year, so we still do look forward to seeing them squirm a little during the sharing time.  So, as much has changed, much has also remained the same. And so it is with the Word of God. His story never changes. May we continue to put Jesus and then our families, at the forefront this Christmas Season. Let us continue to allow the "real" meaning of Christmas shine through.

God Bless each of you this Christmas Season. May the light of Jesus shine forth within your homes, and your hearts. 

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