It was my freshman year at Purdue, and I was a long way from my home in Hong Kong. When Christmas came, and almost everyone on campus went home to their families, I found the nearest family I could: my brother, who was attending medical school in Canada. He had just begun his residency.
As a neophyte cook trying to provide Christmas dinner as efficiently as possible, I turned on the oven and put both the turkey and a cake in, figuring they could cook together. That was a big mistake. The cake batter never solidified, and the turkey was uncooked in parts.
But it didn’t matter. I was, as best I could manage, with family for the holidays.
That’s where most of us will be—or will try to be—as we celebrate this precious, holy time. Such gatherings are a tradition, and traditions matter. They connect us with the past and weave the tapestry for our future. We gather with our grandparents and grandchildren with the almost certain knowledge that the smallest babies among us will one day do the same when they are parents and grandparents. Traditions celebrate a continuity that links our past and future to the most cherished aspects of family: that of love and togetherness.
In this season, traditions are an appropriate way to celebrate Christmas. The birth of Christ is both an affirmation of the past—of the teachings of the God of Israel—even as it holds a promise for the future, for a hope and redemption that spreads to all the people of the world.
In my travels with CRS, to many of the nearly 100 countries we serve, I have come to understand this on a very basic level. I have seen the hope that a new vegetable garden, a well, a savings group or a health clinic can bring to a village that thought it had been forgotten. I have seen the smiles on the faces of children as they eagerly raise their hands to answer a teacher’s question at a school CRS built—a school where CRS provides their daily meal.
Gift giving is, of course, a part of our Christmas traditions. In the hurly-burly of shopping, we sometimes forget the origin of this tradition: the Magi bringing gifts to the newly born Christ child, who is God’s most precious gift to us.
But it is often in the moment when a gift is presented to a loved one that the real reason for this tradition is rediscovered: a child’s cries of delight, the appreciative smile of a parent, the tender hug of a spouse. Yes, this tradition is one to be honored and cherished.
In this season of giving, we thank you for the gifts you have provided to the people of the world through CRS. Please take a moment to celebrate the smiles and universal sense of family they feel because you claim them. The families you have served may not be gathered around your Christmas tree this holiday but, as you spread joy and sow delight, you have made them part of your tradition.
May this Christmas be a special time of grace and peace.
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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