January 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

The following is an article I wrote for the Sherman County newspaper to be published before Christmas.  So why am I including it in the newsletter for January.   The reason is it is a lot about traditions.   We have just celebrated Christmas, the birth of our savior.  We traditionally have been with family or maybe your tradition is different in your family.  Our family tradition has changed with mom and dad moving to Nebraska and selling the family home. 

     Growing up in Ottawa, KS the town had their own traditions that continue this holiday season.  There is always a Christmas parade the first weekend in December.  Santa is always on a fire truck at the end of the parade.  Then Santa always goes to the oldest working theater in America.  Santa sits for a few hours listening to desires of kids.

     Another tradition is the First Baptist church’s display of Nativities.  Last time I went a few years ago, the number had surpassed 500 nativities.  One of the main contributors, passed away this year so not sure if her family continued the tradition.

     Another tradition is the local hospital, Ransom Memorial Auxiliary, have a home tour of 4 or 5 vintage homes decked out in all their glory.  It was always fun to look at people’s designs and collections.  One year a lady, like a second mom to me, Dorothy Anderson, better known as Mom Irma.  She had a grand Victorian home and her living room was filled with a Christmas village in a display case my father built.  It was grand with lights, snow, buildings and accessories. 

    At our house, in the formal living room there was always a manger scene.  It had the creche, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  Shepherds, wisemen, and animals rounded out the nativity scene.  There was also a Nativity village display on the fireplace hearth.  This now adorns a cabinet in the parsonage.  The nativity set is simple, yet elegant in its own right.   Twenty-five plus years ago when my niece was four or five, after a visit, we noticed everyone in the nativity had been turned to look at baby Jesus.  So instead of seeing their faces, all you saw was backs and tails of animals.  So, my mom turned it around and the next visit they were turned back to tails and back.  I then asked her, why did she keep turning the pieces in the Nativity, and her reply was “Because Jesus is the most important person in the nativity, everyone should be looking at Jesus. 

     Thirteen years later she had a brother and when he was about the same age, we went through the same turning of the animals and people in the nativity.   He said the exact same thing that Jesus should be our focus.  This year the tradition continues, my niece has 4-year-old twins and their family had inherited the nativity set, after my parents moved in with me from Kansas.   My niece called to tell my mom that her 4-year-old son put the Nativity the same way.  His reply after his dad asked him why they were looking in and the tradition continues, “Jesus is the most important.”

     Traditions are not always passed down, but assumed through families.  I am so glad that the figures and the animals are still focusing on baby Jesus this year in Grandma’s manger.  Christmas is that tradition in the church and community, to love one another and keep baby Jesus the focus. We need to take the direction of four-year-old in my life, that we should put our focus on Jesus

     So again, why a letter on traditions in January.  I am currently in the process of going provisional elder leading to a full elder in the UMC.  I recently had an interview and was asked many questions about the UMC.  Some I knew and others I was not 100% clear about.  What I would classify as trivial differences, were very important traditions to the interview committee. What it means to be a Christian, a United Methodist, a Nebraskan, or whatever title you claim as your own, it is important to know the ins and outs of the tradition.  It is important to start off the year 2022 knowing who you are and the traditions that define you or that you associate with. 

    Here is to old traditions that we hold fast to.  Here is for new opportunities and new traditions being forged.  Here is to old traditions getting a “faith-lift” to a new tradition or a modified tradition. 

    Praying for a new year that is filled with tradition and possibilities.  A New year that brings personal and communal growth and change.  Here is to a new year of fellowship and worship in the Spirit of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Pastor Lori Stevens