Failed fudge, broken nativities and other Christmas traditions

Kirk Cameron recently took some flack (at least from some of my friends) about his “advice” to moms “to keep the joy in Christmas.” In plugging his film, “Saving Christmas,”  on his Facebook page, Cameron’s most offensive statement appears to be this one: “Let your children, your family, see your joy in the way that you decorate your home this Christmas, in the food that you cook, the songs you sing, the stories you tell and the traditions that you keep.” 

Well, Kirk, we have some traditions in our family — traditions that have crossed continents, climates and cultures and survived every season of our lives. Here are a few:

Failed fudge.

Every year, I make a batch of fudge that doesn’t set up. It isn’t that I want the fudge to fail. It just does — every single year. And every single year, the four of us get out our spoons and enjoy the runny mess — every single bite.

Baking disasters. 

Every year, I embark on a plan to make home-baked goodies for neighbors, friends and colleagues. I plan to bake dozens of cookies and make several types of Christmas candy. The enthusiasm lasts through about a dozen cookies and one batch of failed fudge when I decide it’s too much work (and cleanup). So, we abandon the project; eat the fudge with a spoon and resort to gift cards for only our very closest friends (sometimes).

Broken nativities.

A pig joins the party

But perhaps the most significant Christmas tradition we share as a family are the broken nativities we display each year. I’ve collected nativity sets since the early days of our marriage and living overseas added extra flair to the collection. I have a set from South Africa that includes a zebra and an elephant. In a set from the Philippines, the wise men are riding water buffalo. My set from South Korea includes a hand-carved pig — an animal I’m not sure was actually present in that Jewish stable all those years ago.

But without a doubt, my favorite piece is a white ceramic shepherd, part of a set my mother-in-law gave me years ago. In 2004 in the parking lot of the John Sevier Baptist Church mission house in Knoxville, Tennessee, that little shepherd lost his head in an unfortunate spill. Rather than throw him away, we glued his head back on, and he joined the host of other pieces in my various collections that have been chipped, broken and glued back together through our many international moves. My husband once joked that instead of writing on the nativities the date we purchased them, we should write the date they were broken.

The decapitated shepherd

And that’s why I love that shepherd. He shows up at the manger every year just as I do: broken and stuck back together. He reminds me how very much I need a Savior. He reminds me that my brokenness is the reason Jesus came. At the manger, I don’t have to pretend I have it all together. I can simply worship the God who became flesh and lived among us. At the manger, it isn’t about me. It’s all about Him.

So, this year, while the rest of the world hustles and bustles to create the “perfect” Christmas, I hope I’ll see you at the manger.

I’ll be the one with the cracked head, eating fudge with a spoon.


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