"What a beautiful way to remember Christmas Eve with Mary and Joseph traveling so far. I love your family tradition." I clasped my hands together joyfully. In my imagination our whole family was traveling to Bethlehem...on donkeys!
"Well, you could join us this year," Laura invited. "We could meet..."
I rushed home to tell the family about our brand new Christmas tradition.
I even looked in the Yellow Pages for donkey rentals. This was the year of our Lord Two Thousand and people still used land lines and the Yellow Pages.
"Go to the beach on Christmas Eve? Isn't that a strange way to celebrate Christmas Eve?" Julianna replied when I asked her what I thought of the Nolette family's invitation.
"It's a terrible idea!" Katie Beth doesn't like change. "We can't change our Christmas traditions. "Isn't there a verse somewhere about not exasperating your children?"
"What's a Traveling Dinner?" Jenny Rose asked. "Are we going to Bethlehem?"
"Well, I've already said that we would go," I answered tersely, not meeting my husband's gaze. "Let's just try it this year. If we don't like it, we can go back to our old ways!"
I will not describe the faces my husband and children made. But to give my husband credit, once again, even though I had impulsively committed the whole family to something without consulting him first, he backed me up.
Christmas Eve dawned and we made deviled eggs, washed fruit, and dumped several cans of soda into our cooler. No one wanted to admit it, of course, but they were secretly excited. The Nolette family arrived at noon, our planned departure time. At two o'clock, we pulled our of the driveway. If you've ever traveled with our two families anywhere, I wold not have to explain the two hour time lag. Deciding who would travel in what van took twenty minutes alone.
Did I mention that the weather was freezing? Yes, in sunny Florida, we were bundled up in scarves, hats, and warm coats. Phoebe and Shine insisted on bringing blankets. We caravanned east to New Smyrna Beach. An hour later, we had arrived at the beach. There was a chill in the wind, but we put on brave Floridan smiles and headed to the sand.
"Why don't we throw the football around?" Patrick suggested.
"Did anyone bring a football?" Zack wondered aloud.
"Why don't we eat?" my husband suggested.
"My teeth are chattering too much to eat," Julianna whined.
Laura, Donald, and I began laying our food out on a nearby picnic table, while the kids took photographs of the beach and one another. Talking, laughing, and trying desperately to keep warm occupied our time before and after our very non-traditional meal. We tried to sing Christmas carols, but it's hard to sing when your lips are frozen together. I overheard Mike and Donald whispering to each other.
"I have no idea," my husband honestly admitted.
"Let's take a group picture," I suggested, knowing that the dads would want to head out soon.
Getting everyone positioned occupied the next thirty minutes with many complaints of cold bottoms from those sitting on the bench. There was much snuggling and everyone was thankful for the blankets the young girls had insisted on bringing.
"Well, let's head out!" Donald began to muster the troops.
"it's time to go!" Mike echoed.
"What? We just got here!" Jenny Rose complained.
"Why are we leaving already?" Cody inquired.
"I have to go to the bathroom," Jimmy announced.
The frigid Arctic wind moaned and we jumped up and down to battle the chill. We loaded the cars adn headed back to Lake Mary. There was cheerful chattering in our van the whole way home."
"That was really fun!" Katie Beth exclaimed!
"I'm so glad your family came with us," Zack agreed.
"I told you this was a great idea!" Julianna reminded me. Funny, I remember things differently.
That was the beginning of our traveling dinner each year with the Nolette's. The other years have not been quite so cold and we have managed to have Christmas devotions and sing Christmas carols together. Last year, we went to Gemini Springs Park and played football too. And each year, we remind the children that Mary and Joseph TRAVELLED to Bethlehem so that the prophecy could be fulfilled.
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from ancient times," (Micah 5:2 NIV)
If you would like more information about Traveling Dinners, check out this book, Celebrate Christmas with a Traveling Dinner.
For the Joy Set Before Us!
(Meredith Ludwig Curtis)