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WAYS: What is your most meaningful Advent/Christmas tradition?

Several weeks prior to finishing each issue of Interpreter, we send a question to all readers for whom we have email addresses, asking them to respond with a short answer of 50-75 words.We hope you will join the conversation.

We asked:

"What is your most meaningful personal or family Advent/Christmas tradition and why?"

For this issue, you said ...

Each year my sister gives me a Nativity. They take many forms: "traditional" sets, jewelry or an ornament. They may come from the Holy Land or a flea market. My sister once shared the tradition to leave a Nativity out in each room of your home as a reminder of the Christmas spirit throughout the year.

Dee Beggarly, Christ UMC, Neptune Beach, Florida

My husband, Ray, and I have been hosting Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner at our church for many years. We realized there were quite a few members, like us, who do not have family living nearby. Ray fries the turkey (Cajun style!), and I set the tables and organize the rest of the food with those in our church who drop dishes by. These have truly become family gatherings.

Genie Durden, Central UMC, Meridian Mississippi

Watching the children's Christmas program is always the highlight. It's great to see the children lined up in their costumes, waiting to say their lines. Even though they are impatient, they are without concern, for they know they are loved and are with a forgiving church family if there is a mistake. Children come to understand the story of Jesus. God sent his son to be with us – he loves us THAT MUCH!

Debi Dyer, St. Matthew's UMC, Newbury Park, California

We have family Advent night the first Sunday in December (and) make random acts of kindness calendars. I challenge the kids to take selfies or have their parents take photos to share and mark them #bekind #knowchristsharechrist. 

The Rev. Tammy Felder, Highland Valley UMC, Little Rock, Arkansas

In the 1970s, my beloved pastor brought me from his trip to the Holy Land a set of primitively carved Nativity figures. That very night my husband (now deceased) went out to his shop and fashioned an appropriate rustic stable. I have displayed this treasured tableau every Christmas since. When my granddaughters came along, they were free to arrange and re-arrange the figures – sometimes into unusual settings! Even now, in their 20s, I sometimes see them discreetly adjust my arrangement!

Janelle Harvey, First UMC, Mont Belvieu, Texas

For me, the most meaningful event is the Christmas Eve service that traditionally ends with the gathered lighting their candles and with all house lights dimmed during the singing of "Silent Night." It brings out an emotional surge of love and gratitude in remembrance of this holy night.

Thomas Helber, Hope UMC, Canal Winchester, Ohio

My family always wants to watch "Donovan's Reef" with John Wayne, Lee Marvin and others. It is about people on an island paradise from different lifestyles, backgrounds, social status, religions, ethnicity, dreams and desires, but pretty much all the same. It tells how they interact with each other and how none of the differences affects how they treat each other. Of course, no John Wayne movie would be complete without a couple of good fights, but they are all in fun. Oh, yeah, the movie is set at Christmas.

Paul Norris, Mckendree UMC, Lawrenceville, Georgia

Growing up we had two Advent traditions. One was the Advent calendar. Mom would let us take turns opening the doors to see what was behind it. The other was setting up the Nativity scene. Baby Jesus wouldn't be put in until Christmas Eve. Meantime, we got to fill the manger with straw, getting a piece every time we were good, and having one taken away when we weren't so good. The wise men and camels were placed far away, being moved a little nearer as we get closer to Jan. 6.

Claire Phillips, First UMC, Deming, New Mexico

We put a box with a bow and a tag that says "Happy Birthday, Jesus" under our tree. Inside we put notes of things family members have "done for Jesus" during the year like work at a financial crisis relief center, serve food on Thanksgiving Day, purchase presents for parents to give their children for Christmas, visit folks in nursing homes, etc. On Christmas morning after we've read the Christmas story, we open the box of birthday presents to Jesus then have a time of prayer.

Susan Smith, Fuquay-Varina (North Carolina) UMC

The weekly lighting of the Advent wreath has been a family tradition since I was a child. Not only did we celebrate the increasing light on the wreath during worship, we also took turns around the family dinner table with assigned readings and candles. The Advent wreath has always provided a visible, easily understood symbol, by young and old alike, of God's light coming into our darkened world.

The Rev. Jon M. Swart, First UMC, Warren, Pennsylvania

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