For as long as I can remember, my family has practiced one simple Christmas tradition. Every year, on Christmas morning, we each take a turn sharing hopes, goals, and desires for the coming year. Sometime soon after I learned how to write legibly, I became the official scribe. On Christmas day my mother would hand me “the journal.” Someone, usually my sister, would volunteer to go first. I’d crack open the worn notebook, find Johanna’s name, and re-read her goals from the previous year. Then she’d reflect—how did the year turn out? Did she accomplish her goals? Did God fulfill her hopes? When she started sharing her hopes for the coming year, I’d quickly scrawl as fast as I could. Finally, when it was my turn, I’d pass the journal to someone else and do my own share of talking.
As kids we use to squirm through this tradition. It was an exercise in great restraint to gaze longingly at the presents under the tree and fidget impatiently through all the talking. But over the years something amazing took place. As we grew up, so did our goals. Aspirations to conquer computer games turned into desires to trust God in school, to share our faith with confidence, to spend more time in the Word. God was molding our hearts. He was growing a family, and all of it is recorded in stacks of worn journals safely stored somewhere in my mother’s room. We could flip to any year and see exactly what God was doing in the lives of each member of our family. Somewhere along the way someone—I can’t even remember who—suggested we give Jesus a symbolic “gift” each year, along with a year verse. So that was added to the sharing time—our belief, our jobs, our loved ones, our failures…all of these have been gifts we laid at Jesus’ feet over the years.
In many ways this special time on Christmas morning was the glue that brought us closer together as a family unit. I can still remember us all coming to the living room on the year that one member of our family endured a devastating tragedy. What would this person say about the year that had transpired? What hopes would this person have for the coming year? How was God at work? That morning, as we sat together listening to all God was doing, passing along tissues to dry our eyes, I realized that these were sacred moments. We were all still here. In it together. Despite it all, God had brought us through. God would always bring us through.
As we got married, spouses were invited into our tradition, and this forged new intimacy in our ever-expanding family. This year, we will likely have to share on Christmas Eve night because my two little girls are still too young to sit through the tradition, although I smile in anticipation of the day they’re ready to start sharing their own hopes of conquering computer games…hopes that I know will grow up as they do.
It’s funny—I use to wiggle through our tradition, anxious for it to be over, and this year the single thing I look forward to the most is tucking my kids into bed, grabbing a mug of something hot, snuggling up on the couch, and listening to my family share while I take notes as fast as my fingers will let me.