I was digging through one of the closets at church the other day and found one of those manger props you see so often in nativity scenes. I have been around the church long enough now to know the names of some of the babies who were nestled in that manger on Christmas Eve.
It is the tradition of our church to hold Christmas Eve services. We gather together and have cookies. We read the story of Jesus’ birth. We celebrate as a family that something new happened on that night so very long ago.
Then, we each go off to celebrate our other traditions. Those traditions have changed a bit over the years. When I was a child, my family would have our Christmas Eve appetizer meal. Christmas morning we would have cheesecake for breakfast. We would climb in the car and head to Grandma’s house for turkey, green bean casserole and Martha Washington balls.
Grandpa went on to heaven a few years ago and Grandma has moved in with my uncle. I grew up and had children of my own who are quickly leaving the nest. The world has changed dramatically and so have my traditions.
Today I count among my favorite new traditions the dinner served at Parsons Presbyterian Manor. I get to see each of you with your families. The food is delicious, and the conversation is fabulous.
New traditions can often represent changes in our lives. Change is not always pleasant. But, the miracle of Jesus’ birth is a miracle of the new.
Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are a promise to us of God’s love. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
Not the unexpected pregnancy of an unwed virgin, not the cross, not even death can defeat God. God is deeply invested in bringing life and hope to a dead and dying world. Each time we see our traditions changed we can rest in the sure and certain knowledge that God will bring something new into our lives.
As you head into December, I want to leave you with a few words from the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Is 43:19)
This verse reminds us that God is always doing a new thing. Even if we find our traditions radically different from all we have known, God is doing a new thing. Even if we have done the same thing for years, God is doing a new thing. Enjoy this holiday season knowing that God is doing a new thing for each of us.
Rev. Jennifer Dawson, pastor at Parsons First Presbyterian Church