Sam has the biggest heart.
One of his little friends often shows up at mealtime, and Sam's first reaction is always, "can he eat with us, mama?"
And you know what? I don't always feel like saying yes. I miss Sam, now that so many of his waking hours are spent at school. My favourite evenings are homey ones with just the five of us, being cozy and usually silly, playing on the living room floor. I want to soak up Sam as much as I can because he is growing so quickly. Frankly, I'd rather not share. So I want to say no.
But more than that, I want Sam to be generous. I want to foster his welcoming spirit. I want to create space for him to be friendly and kind and inclusive. So I say yes, and set another place at the table, and help his friend take off his coat.
I think Christmas traditions do the same thing for me. They train my actions, regardless of my mood or short-term perspective, and they stretch out my Grinchy preset.
The traditions of decorating a tree, stringing up lights, listening to Christmas music make me inclined to celebrate with friends and neighbours, even when my heart is tired and a (discouragingly large) part of me just wants to nap, and sleep, and nap some more.
The tradition of giving to those in less fortunate circumstances makes me remember the needy, and adjusts my eyesight to see all the blessed ways I can give all year long.
The tradition of singing Christmas carols pulls my thoughts out of my own life and sends my mind flying back to that starry night in Bethlehem, that enormous gift, that great Father-heart bursting with love for us.
I don't always feel like my thoughts are scintillating or new, but my own little Christmas tradition is to write a Christmas post daily from the 1st to the 24th of December. And maybe it's just another dumb post for people to scroll past and that's totally okay. Because this is a tradition that trains my heart's eye away from its self-centered focus and upward to catch a glimpse of God's irresistible love.
The next time Sam asks to include his friend at supper time, I'm probably going to have the same argument in my heart: "Unnngh ... no ... but ... okay ... of course, yes." And tomorrow night I'm going to sit down in front of my screen and think, "unngh ... this is lame ... I don't have anything new to say ... I should just delete my blog and link to Ann Voskamp instead ...."
And then I'm going to keep writing anyway.
Because I want that glimpse, I want to stretch beyond myself, I want a heart that answers yes, a heart in the habit of loving.
Merry Christmas, friends.