In recent years, the Christmas season has meant the scratchiness of loading and unloading bales of hay for a DIY hayride at my parents’ place. Sometimes it pokes through your sleeves, sometimes it scratches you directly since even December might be t-shirt weather. Driven outdoors as a COVID precaution, this hayride has been the focal point of the last few Christmas family gatherings. The whole loop takes 15 minutes, and features a variety of decorated scenes, each with a corresponding soundtrack. A nativity, Charlie Brown, The Grinch … you get the idea.
While my younger cousins have a lot of fun, I think it is my parents who enjoy it the most. A hayride is, among other things, a chance to tell a story. And every year they get to plan out the scenes, the route, and the narrative for this 15 minute excursion.
It’s a challenging task when you think about it. Setting all the decorations up and deciding what makes the cut. They’ve got to make some tough calls. And, on top of that, deal with any foliage that might have sprung up and blocked the path since the year before.
It’s also a great vehicle for reflection. A chance to decide what matters most in this season. Decide what parts of God’s story to tell to those who you come together with to celebrate. That might be the oldest Christmas tradition of all: gathering around and telling the holiday story. It’s a tradition I look forward to participating in every year at The Church at Highland Park.