At no time of the year is tradition more widely observed and celebrated than during the Christmas season.
Traditions vary from family to family, but we all have our own cherished holiday traditions. And it is to some extent the feelings of hope, joy, love and peace that those traditions inspire that help make the season so special.
Traditions have a sense of transcendence to them. They create what some theologians like to call “thin spaces.” They have the ability, if only for a moment, to blur the boundaries in our hearts and minds between then and now. Our traditions connect us to cherished and treasured memories of times, places and people and seemingly transport us through the ages. It’s why we do many of the things we do this time of year.
We started a new tradition of sorts at First Baptist Church a few years ago. During the disruption of COVID, we prerecorded our weekly Advent readings in the homes of various church members. We had the families gather near their Christmas tree and asked them to share some traditions they observed every year during the Christmas season.
While we have discontinued prerecording the readings in homes, we have continued the practice of asking families to share the traditions they most enjoy celebrating together.
Over the last few years, we’ve heard quite the list of Christmas traditions. Several families decorate their houses together soon after Thanksgiving. Others gather together with extended family to bake all manner of Christmas goodies. Many attend Christmas Eve services together before heading out to look at Christmas lights or heading back home to watch treasured Christmas movies. Several others continue the long-held tradition of reading the Christmas story in Luke 2 before opening presents on Christmas morning.
This year, we had something unique happen as a family shared their Christmas tradition. They invited everyone to join them.
For the past 10 years, Shawn and Jennifer Malone have gathered support from people and businesses all around our community to provide meals to folks on Christmas Day. When they began their tradition a decade ago, they fed approximately 300 people. Their efforts have grown exponentially over the years, and last year, they were able to feed 1,900 people. This year’s goal is even more ambitious with a target of 2,300 hot meals served.
For many of us, this tradition feels very new and innovative. At the same time, there is something familiar and timeless about it. This tradition, in very practical ways, reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. It reminds us that Christmas is about more than trees, light, decorations and the many other wonderful trappings of the season.
Christmas is a season of service and giving. It is a time when we remember God’s gift to us in Jesus. We remember that the creator came down to serve and meet the needs of his creation. This tradition moves us beyond simple symbols and signs and invites us to manifest the spirit of giving with our own sacrificial service.
We at First Baptist Church invite you to join us as we join Shawn and Jennifer and their team as we engage in this new, yet timeless, tradition together on Christmas Day, Sunday, Dec. 25. We will gather together in the fellowship center of FBC at 505 Community Drive at 10 a.m. on Christmas morning to sing some Christmas carols and read the Christmas story together. We will then get back into our vehicles and take hot meals all over our community.
If you would just like to join us to deliver the meals, we plan to load meals into vehicles and get them on the road by 10:30 a.m. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Shawn Malone at The Brooklyn Pizza Co. or contact the offices of First Baptist Church.
We hope you will join us as we take a meaningful tradition and make it grow.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor at First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected]