My mother turns ninety years old this week. Long life is in my mom’s genes. Her mother, my grandmother, lived to be 101 years old and my great-grandmother lived to 96. My family always assumed that mom would live a long time. My dad said that he was earning and saving money to support my mom long after he was gone. He was right. My dad died eleven years ago.
My family is gathering for an open house and then, later, a family party. People are traveling from Colorado, Iowa, Illinois and New York to Michigan for the celebration. We are carefully planning the food, moving in extra tables and chairs, and planning airport runs.
It is easy to get caught up in the stories, the laughter, the food and the busyness. But while we play Family Jeopardy, have photo scavenger hunts, and watch kids connect to their extended family members, we want to intentionally talk about how God has been with us and faithful to his promises. Making room for explicit moments to reflect on God’s faithfulness in family celebrations is one way to build faith and to bring some of the rituals from our church life into our family life. At this celebration we will have a Bible out and ask family and friends to highlight passages and write their name in the margin of texts that are meaningful to them. This book will be around long after the cake is gone.
Last week, we celebrated the baptism of my granddaughter Elouise in Illinois. Our family gathered for a celebration and for food after the worship service. Our older granddaughter, who was baptized in my home church two years ago, received a baptism candle from the congregation. Elouise’s church doesn’t do that so we purchased a baptism candle for her, lit it, and presented it for family devotions. By lighting the candle at home, we had a place and a space to once again hear God’s promises.
Both of these family gatherings were times of celebration. In one we celebrated God’s promises to a newborn, in the other we will recognize how God has been faithful in the long life of my mom. What a joy it is to be with family and to realize that when we gather, God is there with us.