For such a small, insubstantial piece of plastic, the little lamb sure packed an emotional wallop just a few days into this year’s Christmas season. Tim was digging around under the couch trying to find one of our cats’ toys, when he came up with a plastic lamb instead.
The lamb made me teary-eyed. Fortunately, Tim didn’t notice. This lamb belongs to a nativity scene I bought for our two grandchildren last year. We set it out on the coffee table while the “grownup” nativi
ty scene with its breakable pieces sat in its usual spot on the fireplace mantel. The little lost lamb had been under the couch for almost a year. The rest of the scene went with my daughter and her family when they moved back to Virginia in February.
Introducing my grandchildren to baby Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas was one of the great joys of the Christmas season 2016. Brooklyn and Carson learned the names of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. They played with the lamb, the donkey, and the cow. They gave them rides in their toy cars and listened to the story of baby Jesus’s birth over and over again. We sang happy birthday to Jesus.
They were introduced to the most important story they’ll ever hear in a way that was appropriate for their age and ability to understand. The message will be repeated many times, to be sure, but starting early plants the seeds. Christmas isn’t about Santa and reindeer.
So why cry over such good memories? Because this year my daughter and her family will celebrate Christmas in their new home far away on the East Coast. The nativity scene will be on their coffee table, not ours. The sugar cookies will be baked in their oven, not ours, and they won’t be here for the Christmas Eve candlelight service. After all this time, I admit I still find it hard to be an empty nester any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season.
It’s been a wonderful year of opportunity and growth for Erin and her husband Shawn. I’m proud of the progress they’ve made with his good job and buying their first home. This is the way life is supposed to go and I thank God for it. I thank God for the good fortunate of having both our son and daughter together with their loved ones all in one place last Christmas. We’re so blessed to have those times and those sweet memories now.
I remind myself of these truths as I look at this cute little lamb. He’s lost and like any good shepherd, it’s time for me to send him back to his flock. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the lamb was lost? Jesus has taken care of my little lambs this entire year, giving them a new home, new friends, and many new experiences. He takes care of his flock.
Soon Erin will unpack the nativity scene and the grandkids will ooh and ahh. They’ll remember playing with it last year at Grandma’s house. They’ll think of Grandma and Grandpa too. Erin will read them the story of Jesus’s birth. The truth and the tradition will live on. And they’ll start their own family traditions, just as Tim and I did when Erin and Nicholas were small. The cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve, the candlelight service, the crazy music on Christmas morning, the chocolate chip pancakes, the movies in our PJs after the presents were opened. Some of these traditions will live on, mixed with new ones.
In the meantime, Tim and I will be here in San Antonio making new memories with Nicholas, his wife, and the family we have here.
That’s the way family works. I’ll find it hard to be apart from my daughter’s family this Christmas, but I know they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be. So I’m slipping lost baby lamb into an envelope, along with some new Christmas books, and mailing them to Virginia. I can just imagine how their eyes will light up when they see the lamb and the books. Erin will remind them of the time they spent with Grandma and Grandpa last Christmas. But they’ll be busy making new memories. Which is just as it should be.
For the empty nesters out there, how have you adjusted to the holidays with your grownup children off making their own traditions and memories? What new traditions have you instituted?