Every year as my family unpacks our holiday decorations and we unwrap various nativity sets I recall a conversation from my seminary years. In a class we were talking about the season of Advent and a classmate shared a tradition in her family practiced while she was growing up, that as an adult she came to appreciate. As a kid she just thought it made the season fun. When the family decorated their home for Christmas up on the fireplace mantel was a place for the nativity. On the floor nearby was a beautiful wooden box containing all the pieces – the manger, shepherds, a sheep and cow, a star, an angel, Mary and Joseph and of course baby Jesus. Every few days they would read a devotion, part of the biblical Christmas story, and add characters to the scene on the mantel. Missing from the box were the three wise ones. These three special characters were placed upstairs in the guest room and whenever the family read a devotion and added to the nativity – they would also go and move the wise ones a few feet bringing them closer to the scene. The wise ones would make their way through the house and arrive at the nativity scene after Christmas morning on Epiphany. I recall her chuckling as she talked about her parents being Advent purists.
We all have parts of the Advent and Christmas season we seek to preserve year to year – or perhaps abandon. Many are associated with family members no longer with us, special celebrations from our childhood or traditions we start for our own children. For most of us at the center of it all is the connection we seek to feel towards family, friends and others. As we journey through the season we add our own characters and pieces to our nativity story – may we keep the love of Christ as the foundation for all we do in these days leading us to Christmas, Epiphany and beyond.