One of my favorite things about all the rituals and traditions attached to this time of year is the way they mess with time.
My husband and son and I decorate our Christmas tree, and as we hang each ornament—the ones we brought from our parents’ houses and the ones we got together—we tell their stories. As we do, we find that we are not just standing in the living room we share, but we’re also standing in footed pajamas in the living rooms we grew up in, decorating every tree we’ve ever decorated, right in that moment.
We gather on Christmas Eve with the lights down and the candles lit, and we sing “Silent Night.” As we do, it’s like we’re singing it at every Christmas Eve service we’ve ever been to; it’s like we’re singing it at every Christmas Eve service yet to come; it’s like, by our song, we’re calling the birth of God into existence again.
It’s not nostalgia; it’s not just a hazy remembrance of the time back when things used to be better than they are now. It’s more than that; it’s like a collapsing of time, a drawing in of past and future into one long now.
Theologians would say we’re stepping out of ordinary time, or what they call chronos, and catching a glimpse of God's time, or what they call kairos. In chronos, minute follows minute, and you can only go forward; that’s where we live most of the time. But for God, in kairos, every moment is one, and your first Christmas, your last Christmas, this Christmas and the redemption of the whole world are all happening right now, forever.
It’s one of the reasons people love this time of year so much, that quality it has that, for many people more than many other time of the year, lets us glimpse the world the way God sees it. So what things or traditions do that for you? What brings you back to your childhood at warp speed? Whatever it is, you should plan to do it soon.
God, grant that the rituals and the songs and the traditions of this season might become for me passageways that lead me right into your heart.