Merry Christmas 2018

And the return of the Christmas Letter!

A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!” –Tevye: A Fiddler on the Roof

 (Joshua) said to them, “Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each[a] of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” Joshua 4:4-7 HCSB

I am a man very fond of donuts. My favorite, might surprise. It is not a maple bar with bacon…if you need to add bacon to make your donut more palatable you have failed at making a great donut. It is not from Krispy Kreme (or any chain for that matter). In fact, it doesn’t come from a donut shop at all. It is the Hostess Crunch mini donettes. Available far and wide in cellophane tubes at every convenience store across America. When I was a kid, sometimes, I would get to go ride with my dad in his tanker truck. At the first gas station, while he unloaded, I would get to go buy snacks. One of my favorites was?.. the Hostess Crunch mini donettes. I can not eat these donuts without smelling diesel exhaust, gasoline fumes, damp floor mats and coffee in my mind. Ponce de Leon needed to look no farther for the fountain of youth, this alchemist’s brew is enough to make me 10 years old again. There are some memories that are so powerful that they give your existence gravity. They can transport you 40 years back to the dark cab of a gasoline tanker.

Traditions (the good ones) can do that.

Christmas mornings, my family reads the Christmas story from the Bible and then has birthday cake and sings happy birthday. A few years ago, after my Grandma Best went Home, I acquired her wind-up birthday cake carousel. It plays “Happy Birthday” as the cake spins. Someday, it will quit working and I will mope around until I find a replacement on E-Bay but it won’t be the same. It’s important. It brings a sense of place.

We had cake as children and it is something that I hope my children pass on to theirs. In more than half a century, I have only not done this once, in 1987. The thing is, my most vivid memories as a child were the disasters. When Jesus had fruitcake, not suitable for a King, or a muffin or…an english muffin. Last year, a week before Christmas, Kaara and I bought a proper cake at the store. Hindsight being 20/20 we now have a better feel for how long it takes to grow mold on a Trader Joe’s dark chocolate ganache glazed birthday cake for Jesus: Less than 7 days. Fortunately, my sister, Kindra had sent us a Swiss Colony gift box that had a cake in it. There may have been a piece or two already consumed…It was perfect.

After God had delivered the Israelites from slavery and brought them to the promised land they had one more obstacle to cross, the Jordan river. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the journey was to end the same way it started, by God bringing them across on dry land (Exodus 14:29, Joshua 3:17). Joshua 4 tells us that after the nation had crossed, twelve elders went out and each gathered a stone to build a memorial of when The Ark of God crossed the Jordan. Unfortunately, the memorial did not last. Just like after the crossing of the Red Sea, it wasn’t long before the Israelites forgot and abandoned God. But, He didn’t forget them, and He doesn’t forget us. After 1400 years Emanuel, God with us, says,  report… what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news. And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.” (Matt 11:4-6 HCSB). It wasn’t long that He was forgotten, abandoned… But, He didn’t forget them and He doesn’t forget us. He is Risen. 2018 years later, because of His sacrifice we can boldly declare, “We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2 HCSB).

Christmas 1987 was the only Christmas I missed because of the Navy. Even though I was missing Christmas with my family, I knew 4500 miles away there was a story, a song and birthday cake.

I believe there are birthday parties in Heaven. They are important. It makes the holiday significant. Traditions do that.

Whatever your traditions this Christmas:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

Merry Christmas,

The Keeners
Patrick, Kris, Noah, and Kaara

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