A Tradition from the Stable

Hey, everyone! I’m so happy to get to blog about a Christmas tradition we have.

Except…our family doesn’t really have many Christmas traditions.

So many of the ladies on this blog have such a great talent for making things look beautiful and I just can’t wait to hear what they’re going to talk about. Some really neat, old-fashioned heirloom Christmas ornament or possibly a family keepsake that gets taken out and admired at Christmas. I feel warm and happy just thinking about all the wonderful blogs that are going to be posted the rest of this year.

Unfortunately, I pretty much lose everything I touch. And, if I don’t, our house is so crazy and busy, it would probably get broken anyway.

So, I figured I’d talk a little about something that I’m good at – being crazy. It’s kind of a Christmas tradition that we do things differently. After all, we’ve always been self-employed and we’ve almost always worked on Christmas Eve and often on Christmas Day as well. As farmers, the animals need milked and fed, the eggs gathered, the stalls cleaned.

In fact, one Christmas, we had goats in my house.

That sounds fun, until you remember that goats, while cute when they’re babies (SO adorable) also bring with them a smell that is…quite potent, let’s say. And in a house, in winter with all the windows tightly closed, it gets strong. Not even greenery can overpower the scent of goats. At least, not in my experience.

But you know, maybe it’s fitting because Jesus was born in a stable.

The year we had goats in our cellar, I couldn’t really walk through the house without remembering the stable in which Jesus was born and how much harder it must have been for Mary and Joseph than the picture we get from the Biblical account. We have a tendency to picture everyone smiling and happy and serene and cozy.

Maybe that’s the way it really was.

Or maybe the reality was that it was more like our lives. Messy. Smelly. Hard and heartbreaking.

Holidays can be the best time of the year. But they can also bring back memories that make us want to cry. Even get depressed. Maybe the heirloom bulb we’ve loved for years got broken. Maybe someone accidentally threw out the box of decorations that used to be our great-grandmother’s. Maybe a loved one went home to be with the Lord and their spot is empty.

Life is hard and it doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to. Expect it to. Feel like we deserve.

You know, it’s tempting to complain. Tempting to ask God, “Why?”

But isn’t the Christmas story proof that God can use what’s left and even turn it into something beautiful?

I think of the ride to Bethlehem. What was that like?

Maybe Mary says to Joseph, You know, dear, if we’d have left when I told you to, there would have been room in the inn.

And Joseph says to Mary, If you’d hadn’t had to change your outfit three times (and she interrupts him and says, But I couldn’t find anything that fit me and matched my hair covering, too!) and Joseph continues: then we wouldn’t have gotten behind the folks with the geriatric camel. Plus, there are only two passing zones between Nazareth and Bethlehem and both times you had to stop and find a bush, and everyone we had passed, passed us while I was waiting on you.

Mary: If you didn’t make our donkey walk so fast, it wouldn’t have been so bouncy and I wouldn’t have had to stop as much.

Joseph: I could have beaten the GPS by ten minutes if you could have held it a little longer.

Mary:  If you’d have stopped and asked for directions when we got lost, we wouldn’t have spent an entire afternoon wondering around Samaria, then we would have beaten the GPS AND gotten a room at the inn.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful. Maybe they were arguing on the way to Bethlehem, maybe they weren’t, but that’s not really what I was thinking.

My point is, Mary and Joseph might not have accepted things quite as easily as we sometimes think. I doubt I would have. But, for them, if things had gone perfectly and they had gotten a room at the inn, if Jesus had been born in comfort and cleanliness, it wouldn’t have been God’s perfect plan.

I know sometimes I fight and fuss about stuff, (like goats in my house) and I don’t realize that it’s not God’s plan for me to have what I want, even if it’s something good, like a room at the inn. Or a house that doesn’t smell like barn animals.

Maybe our family’s Christmas tradition could be that nothing in my house is perfect. The tree is crooked and looks like my kids and I decorated it (because we did!). There is mud in the hall because we walked in with our barn boots on to grab a drink from the fridge to give to the guy who drove two hours to drop parts off. There’s a lot of noise and chaos because we have two extra girls staying with us and my kids aren’t getting as many gifts because we’re buying gifts for them, too.

Nothing is perfect. Not the decorations, not the cleanliness, not the gifts and sometimes not even the smell.

But that’s what the stable means:  perfection isn’t the standard.

Love is.

Love is our Christmas tradition. Whether you belong to our family or are just visiting. Whether you’re dirty or clean, animal or human. You’ll find rest and comfort, laughter and joy in our home. Year after year, that’s my goal for Christmas and for my life – love like Jesus loved. Give like Jesus gave. Don’t worry about perfection or the smell of the stable or the rejection of some (like the innkeeper). Just do the best with what’s left, with what God has given you, and love as hard and deep and strong as you can.

That’s the Christmas tradition that started in a stable. Let’s keep it going.

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42 thoughts on “A Tradition from the Stable”

  1. Simple is a great way to celebrate Christ’s birth.

    The other day, someone asked about traditions handed down through my family, and I don’t have them. My dad grew up poor and they got a few things, but there were no special traditions. My mom grew up Brethren, a very religious, Anabaptist denomination which didn’t decorate for Christmas or have other traditions. My parents just kind of winged it–we had a tree and stockings. We were allowed to ask for things, but there was a strict budget. While other kids may have had gifts totaling close to a thousand, we were lucky if my parents spent $100 apiece.

    We tried to keep it simple for our kids, which wasn’t easy–they really felt the comparisons with friends. But, I think it made them value the things they had more, and they learned to earn or save money to buy the extra wants. We always provided the needs.


    • I agree about simple being best – and you’ve experienced it. It’s hard to know what is the right thing to do when it comes to kids and it’s hard to see them comparing with their friends, but it’s funny, we don’t use the word “spoiled” when they don’t get enough. It always refers to when they get too much. Thanks for stopping by today!

  2. Beautifully said, Jessie!! The greatest of these is LOVE!! They will know we are Christians by our love! Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, your soul and your mind, or might! And the second greatest commandment is LOVE your neighbor as yourself! IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE, BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE!! That’s all that matters!! I hope all of you have a Christmas filled with God’s LOVE.

  3. My paternal grandparents immigrated from Norway. My grandfather was a child but my grandmother was in her teens and coming from a very poor family I don’t think they celebrated christmas as there was no money her father was a small fisherman. So there were no traditions or talk about how they celebrated over there.

    • It’s sad that our history sometimes gets lost to time, but I’m sure they passed down intangible things, like a hard work ethic and great morals and values. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Your house sounds very much like mine with the mud, the animals, the extra kids etc. I am happiest when love fills the house!

    • We search high and low for what will make us happy, but it’s right in front of us all along, right? We just have to look past the mud and the smell and the chaos and see the love. Great point! Thank you. : )

  5. I love just spending a simple non commercialized Christmas.
    I completely understand working on Christmas due to animals. The 1st 20 years I lived in KS I had to work because I raised pigs, I had 80,000 so they certainly do not recognize a holiday.
    The lady 8 years I’ve had a different job that lets me have the day off, I’m still getting used to having holidays.
    Thank you for your post and bringing laughter to my day. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, your family, and everyone on this blog.

    • You definitely know what I’m talking about with 80K hogs! But that makes us appreciate the days off even more, right? Thanks so much and I hope you have a beautiful Christmas as well!

  6. That is a beautiful tradition and your right love it the best tradition of all. Your tree reminds me of the trees we had when I was growing up. We would go out in the woods and cut a cedar tree and it was our Christmas tree. We never bought a tree or had an artificial tree. They were always a tree we went out and cut down. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    • That’s one of my favorite things to do at Christmas – go to the woods and pick out a tree. The girls did it this year. They cut it down themselves and everything. Thanks for noticing! Merry Christmas!

  7. Welcome and such a wonderful post. God had put things in your way to remember him and his story. Woohoo. This is a good thing. I used to always try to be perfect in things I did. Like sewing or making greeting cards and count cross stitch. I suppose my husband had enough and finally said to me: Lori perfection is God’s department not yours Wow talk about an eye opener. I no way would want His department. There would be no way and I would loose all my joy. I cant tell you how freeing that was. I am still working on it, but having a reminder really helps. Merry Christmas and have lots of love and laughter.

    • That’s such a great point, Lori – we just have to keep working on it, but it’s SO freeing to not be bound by perfection. I love that. Thanks for sharing your experience. Lots of love and laughter right back at you this Christmas!

  8. Great blog Jessie.

    PS I have ducks and a chicken in my cellar for the winter. I know a little about what you’re going through. My beau says…the cleanest woman I know with the dirtiest birds…lol I’ve a house full of critters, but I love them all ;o)

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!

  9. Jessie, As usual, you touch my heart, Both, with the Life lessons from the Bible, and the Life lessons on the farm. When my children and I lived on the farm, we didn’t have much, and what we had, we had to share with the livestock, so we lived on soups a lot. I worked nights at a factory, and tried to sleep, between feeding, mucking and other farm chores, while my kids were at school. Our Christmas presents were one each, plus a piece of clothing, like Jackets, or barn boots. I felt guilty, that i couldn’t provide the kind of Christmases that their friends had…(mostly my Daughter…she was the “I Want” kid) LOL The funny thing is, now, they tell me (40 years later), that it was the best part of their lives. We had little, but we had each other, and we were closer to each other and the Lord.

    • Oh, I forgot to say… about critters in the house….. I had several geese in the bathroom (recouping from a dog attack, and a newborn calf, in my pantry.

    • I love that – that your kids remember it as one of the best times of their lives. We always think we need to provide “stuff” but our kids really just want us. Thank you for that testimony, Nanci. Also, I’m praying for you as you care for your hubs. Hugs and a blessed Christmas to you.

  10. Beautifully said. I loved the reality of just living life. Living the best we can. Giving what we can give. Being kind. The Christmas story is a love story. Jesus came for us. How we celebrate His birth. Merry Christmas to you and your dear family.

  11. Yes! We share the same Christmas – doing animal chores, getting mud and snow on the floors from boots, making sure the chickens don’t get in the garage when we go somewhere, all part of farm life. I love that we are different from “normal” traditions! I wish you a Christmas of no animals getting out! 🙂

  12. Thank you for an enjoyable post. Indeed, Christmas is not about having the perfect decorations, perfect meals, joyous family gatherings (how many have no friction between family members, anyway), and everything going just as we planned. I appreciate trees that accommodate little ones and pets. Those years we had toddlers, kittens, and puppies, the lower section of the tree had unbreakable decorations and those the children made. No reason to put those treasured glass ornaments where they are sure to get broken. My Little Ponies sitting on branches won’t break if they fall off and are available to play with. Our tree was never a do not touch tree, just a be careful when you do tree.

    We have had to celebrate Christmas on different dates, we were a military family, and even now celebrate both the 25th and Epiphany. We started the second when our children married and in-laws were demanding they spend Christmas with them. Fine with us. There is no need for a tug of war, we can celebrate whenever we want to. We are also Red Cross Disaster Volunteers and house fires do not recognize holidays. There actually seem to be more fires on those days. Our plans dim by comparison to someone who just lost their house and all they own. So we delay our plans a bit.

    The important thing is to remember the reason you are celebrating and to enjoy the spirit of the season. The best gifts are having those we love with us, happy and healthy. There is nothing more I want.

    I hope you and yours have an enjoyable Christmas and a Wonderful 2022.

    • So beautifully said! (And I think you are absolutely right about there being MORE house fires around the holidays.) You home sounds like one anyone would feel welcome in. Thank you for sharing and a blessed New Year to you and yours!

  13. Great words to live by, as always! I will definitely be keeping them in mind as my family gets together for Christmas this year. Keeping love out in front of everything else can go a long way toward healing some of the challenges that have cropped up in the past couple of years. I think if we all go into each interaction putting a loving foot forward, instead of worrying so much about putting our best foot forward, the world would be a much better place! 🙂

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