Altars of Gingerbread

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altars of gingerbread
My family has always been big on traditions.  And my very favorite traditions of all revolve around Thanksgiving.  It’s kind of a big deal around here; we anticipate the fourth Thursday in November even more than we do December 25th. It is not only a fun day, but a critically important day for the future generations that will come after us.
Because it is a day that we set aside exclusively to show the people who are important to us how much they matter.  It is a day of fun activities that we do together.  It is a day filled with family traditions, which bring comfort and stability to a changing world.  No matter what we do the other 364 days out of the year, we know that on that one day we will be together to thank God for every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).  It is a day to reflect on the truth of God and to express our gratitude for all He has done for us.  It creates an open door for me to share the faith that changed my life with my children and any other loved ones who are present.
Joshua 4:5-7 tells about a mandate that Joshua gives to the leaders of the tribes of Israel.  One man from each tribe was to lift a heavy stone and to place them together on the dry ground of the Jordan River, to stand as a monument of the miracle God did when He parted the waters for them.  Scripture tells us that this was done so that when their children asked them why they were there, they could pass on this part of their history.  There are many other passages in the Old Testament that talk about setting up monuments or building altars to be a remembrance to future generations.
Thanksgiving traditions are like that in our family.  A tradition is the handing down of statements, beliefs, customs…a continuing pattern of beliefs or practices.  I want to hand my faith down to my children; I want to establish a pattern that generations will follow.
We have brunch together every Thanksgiving morning.  We take turns telling other people at the table why we are thankful for them in our lives.  We always pray and thank God for His abundant provision.  And, of course, we eat {mmm, orange monkey bread}.  Then we clear the table and get to the really important part.
It is now time to decorate the gingerbread.
We have men, moose, leaves, angels, snowmen, and more.  We all gather round and decorate them, eating {gleefully!} the broken pieces as we go.  Some we save for the holiday company we know we’ll have, some we send home with friends, and some we give to neighbors with a note about why we are thankful for them.  This is a tradition we talk about all year-long.
We’ll follow that with other traditions such as setting up the tree, and reading the first night of “The Jesse Tree"".  We’ll have a big turkey dinner with our favorite mac’n’cheese as the most popular part of the meal.  Then we’ll settle in to watch White Christmas and eat pie and ice cream before bed.
As you can see, some of our monuments of remembrance are simple.  But they create a memory not only of an action, but of a faith-based truth that is tied to it.  Some on the outside might look at our traditions and think they are cute or fun.  But I know that when I roll out that dough and begin to cut out shapes, I am building altars of gingerbread.  I am cementing a tradition that is now 3 generations old in my family – – but more than that, I am building faith.  I am talking with my children about the Potter who shapes the clay.  I am sharing with them how God formed man in His image.  I am teaching them about the importance of family and thanksgiving.  And some day, they will carry this tradition on in their homes and the legacy of the gingerbread altar will open the door of faith yet again.

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