the gift of traditions – a guest post

image provided by microsoft

The following is written by my friend, Christine Suriano. She and her husband Tony are inspirational models of faith-filled marriage and joy-filled family life. Thank you, Chris! 🙂

Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm, and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught. (2 Thess. 2)

I think there are times we do not hold on to tradition; be it home, family, community, church. It may appear “old-fashioned”, maybe even worthless to some. And, we certainly don’t have time anymore. Do you hear what I hear?

I love the times when we are together and talk starts about what we did when the children were young, or the habits and lifestyles of grandparents and relatives. We laugh heartily, and that seems to bring on yet another story that is even funnier.

Much of what we talk about is how we enjoyed the simple things. Not having a lot of money, we made do. We couldn’t afford hotels and resorts, so we tent camped.  Sue and Chris shared a pair of clogs. The size was in the middle; a bit small for Sue and a bit large for Chris.  Recently, we recounted memories of those who lived with us on a temporary basis. I had forgotten who they were, but we laughed our heads off.

We had the Lent and Advent traditions; both what we did at home and how we recognized the needs of others outside our home. How and why did we keep certain Christmas traditions, especially the tree and the food preparations?

The church was one of the most important places within our family. We shared and cared and were supported by genuine, faith-filled people and clergy.  Taking on any responsibility was expected. Many shared and many gained from these experiences. It was a kind of Kumbaya-time in our lives.

Yes, things have changed over the generations. Change is a challenge, right?  Times are different and there are some traditions we won’t give up.  No matter where our families live, everyone gathers with other family members or neighbors and friends and has the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner.  Our Christmas gifting remains the same. Even though someone might not agree with the chosen charity, it is their choice when it is their time up at bat.

It’s the memories, the traditions that may or may no longer exist, that have brought all of us to where we are as a family. Right here. In this moment in time.  They have helped build relationships that have held true for 30, 40 and 50 years.

For all the above thoughts, emotions and memories, I thank you, God.  You are forever awesome.

May you continue to enjoy your traditions!

what will this child become?

Jesus and John the Baptist

What then will this child become? Luke 1:66 

The miraculous circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist had local tongues wagging. First, dear elderly Elizabeth becomes pregnant well past her child-bearing years. Daddy Zachariah is struck dumb after questioning the heavenly messenger`s announcement. After the boy is born, Mama insists on calling him John; the name given by the angel. Hubby seconds the motion, writing his approval on a tablet. And, lo and behold, Papa`s voice returns!

This was no ordinary birth. How could his life be ordinary? What, then, will this child become?

We ask this question of all the children in our lives. A newborn elicits deep pondering about hope, potential and promise. The wee face and body provides only a twinkle of a glimpse into future looks and personality. Changes appear daily.

From toddlers to school-children, individual talents and challenges begin to emerge. As bodies grow, characters are formed. Having five children of our own, we were always amazed at their uniqueness and diversity.

By high school, the first hesitant attempts at planning a future life begin. We now know, from experience, of the heavy stresses placed on our young people as they discern career choices and life`s paths. Who knows at 18 years of age what this child will become?

Through the twenties paths are tried and tested. Some lead in a simple straight line to fulfilled dreams. Most wind through and around different places, providing either freedom or uncertainty depending on where the mind and heart are residing.

Perhaps as our children begin their own families, we can finally breathe a sigh of relief. We now know what they have become! But, we all know that life is full of surprises, unexpected challenges and new opportunities. Untried paths can open up before us regardless of the time of life we are in. I am in my middle years, still wondering what I will become.

As the holy season of Christmas approaches, we prepare to celebrate the coming of the most extra-ordinary babe, born in the most ordinary surroundings. His miraculous birth has tongues wagging to this day. He showed us the blessedness of each child born, the sacredness of each life created by a loving God.

Here`s to all the children in our lives – young and old. May we all trust in God`s loving plan for each of them; and always be open to the surprises along the way!

Wishing you all a joy-filled and blessed Christmas!

affectionately,

Isabella

christmas wars

For a holiday season that promotes peace and goodwill for all, Christmas has become a magnet for religious and cultural battles. And the fighting seems to intensify each year.

Here’s a story that is causing quite a discussion in a nearby town. A woman was paying for her purchases at a grocery till, when the clerk wished her a “Happy Holiday!” Furious, the customer dove into a rant about it being Christmas, not some generic holiday. Finally, she left her purchases on the counter and left in a huff.

Christmas cards from politicians are judged and scrutinized. What does the greeting say? Is Christmas mentioned? Is God?

Joyless emails land in my inbox, bemoaning the fact that we need to “Put Christ back in Christmas.” They predict dire consequences if we don’t stand up and fight against the secular demons.

I read a blog post written by a Catholic mother who describes the present reality as “spiritual warfare.” It is our duty to stand up and fight to keep Christianity at the forefront of Christmas. And, we must teach our children to do the same.

Meanwhile, many families of other faith traditions struggle with the big Christmas question. A Jewish Christmas? Some say “Oy Tannenbaum”, over at the National Catholic Reporter, describes various approaches by Jews in North America. Some try to assimilate the secular holiday of good cheer. Others feel that any assimilation is a threat to their own faith.

The debates and battles that occur along the sacred-secular divide make me cringe. First of all, it’s the level of intolerance on both sides of the ideological wall. As Christians, we have the freedom and right to religious observances; as do all faiths. For us, Christmas is not merely a sentimental holiday focused on stars and stables and babes in mangers. It is the Feast Day celebrating the Incarnation; God taking on flesh and becoming one of us. Mean-spirited trashing of our beliefs is not only hurtful; it smells of religious intolerance and even hatred.

As Christians, we have to acknowledge that we live in a diverse society. Unless we choose a ghettoized existence, we will be rubbing shoulders with women and men of different faiths, and no faith. This gives us graced opportunities for dialogue across religious and cultural divides. But, the best way to ensure that the conversation train never leaves the station is to walk along the tracks with a big sign stating that you and your beliefs, alone, are right.

Along with the intolerance on all sides, I am fed up with the demonization of all that is secular. Yes, it is a struggle to keep a spiritual focus amidst the busyness of Christmas preparations. But, generosity and giving is at the heart of Christianity. Charities know this, and are the happy recipients at this time of the year. Buying a thoughtful present for someone nudges us to look more deeply into their hearts and desires. Feasting and merriment celebrates the gift of family and friends. What’s un-Christian about that?

To all who want to turn Christmas into a battle-ground…give it a rest! If you want to speak of “spiritual warfare”, take a look at the real issues around you; poverty, injustice, inequality, violence, etc. Wish me a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday. A greeting of good cheer is always welcome.

Here’s to keeping the Peace and Joy in Christmas!