Not all traditions need to be set in stone because times change, people change, and growing families call for a lot of flexibility and grace. But here’s one that has carried through the years and has knitted our family together in the most precious of ways. Maybe a version of it might bless you this holiday season.

Every eve of Christmas Eve, we gather around the table; turn off all the lights save for the Christmas lights and candlelight. We play classic Christmas music softly in the background. We hold hands, bow our heads, and thank God for carrying us through another year. Then, we go around the table and answer these three questions:

  1. What did God teach you this past year?
  2. What life lesson will you take with you in the coming year?
  3. What do you want from the Lord in this coming year? (i.e., a greater understanding about…, newfound strength for…, healing, a baby, a new job…)

We take our time. We get vulnerable. And we give ample time and space for reflection. After someone shares, we all go around and offer our perspective on what we’ve seen God do in that person this past year. We affirm and encourage, and sometimes we tear up as we speak to some of the tougher experiences we’ve walked through as a family. It’s always a sacred, beautiful time. Some share in a matter of a few words, while others tell their stories. To have this extended time, where no one is in a hurry, to dig a little deeper into each other’s lives, is a gift beyond imagination.

After our dinner, I grab a bottle of sparkling cider and stand next to one of our sons. Kev stands behind him and places his fatherly hands on our son’s shoulders. He speaks a blessing over him while I pour the sparkling cider. The wineglass sits on a saucer, so the saucer catches the spilling over liquid when I poured it to overflowing. We wanted our sons to visualize what it looks like for God to pour out His love in abundance.

Now that our sons are married, we do a “blessing gift” instead. We start thinking about their blessing in October and really give it some thought and prayer. Then we buy a gift that signifies what we believe God wants them to know as they walk into this next year. For instance, one year, we felt that God wanted one son and his wife to have the eyes of their hearts open up and see things more clearly from an eternal perspective. We bought them a telescope and a camp lantern (a reminder to fan the flame within them).

Our kids look forward to their blessing gift every year.

Now that we have little grandchildren, we’re rethinking, once again, how best to reflect God’s heart for our children.

Traditions do come and go. But moments that draw us closer and compel us to look up, are so worth the thought, effort, and time we give them.

Here’s to a sacred, beautiful Christmas season.