Merry Christmas from Chama, New Mexico where we are celebrating a Brandon family Christmas! We have a lot of fun traditions, but the story below is one of my favorites. As we celebrate Christmas, I am so thankful that Jesus is the reason. Otherwise, it would just be another day. What is your favorite Christmas memory?
Every other Christmas, I walk on water.
With each excursion, a new cousin rising to maturity learns the dos and don’ts of water walking, marking their initiation in our family tradition.
Snow piles up around the old hotel in a mountain town in northern New Mexico. Animal prints from wolves and deer dot the fresh powder. The Brandon cousins arrive en masse and add boot prints from the college grads to the smallest toddlers, delighting to ruffle the almost untouched snow. We trek down to the river, a frozen, twisting snake that winds behind the hotel and through the countryside for miles. Hunter, the youngest by far, struggles to lift his little legs, chunky boots and all, and place them right in the footprints left by the big boys walking just ahead.
We have a system; one established when the first Brandon grandchildren braved the icy river back in 1994. Sharissa, the oldest, or Jonathan and Toby, the fearless older boys of the clan, tentatively lead the way. A booted foot reaches out, testing the frozen mass, judging the color of the ice and the water’s depth. We proceed in a linked chain, hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm out onto the ice and pick a direction to pursue, right towards the bridge and cow pond or left towards rapids and rising banks. When one falls through, the rest are right behind, doing everything they can to pull that cousin out. Falling in is inevitable and soaked feet a fact of life.
We gather to celebrate Christmas all together in this snowy mountain town, doting grandparents, their four daughters, and their families. Our family’s heritage of faith dates back generations to the time Nanny and Popoo sang hymns and toted an old organ to their tiny church on the plains of West Texas. Just like we teach little Hunter and those before him how to walk on water, we must teach him what Christmas is truly all about, a tradition deeper than the river we love to explore. But after a day of walking on water, it is a lesson easy to teach.
Hunter crawled into my lap the first Christmas he was able to walk on water. It was Christmas morning and the smell of food and noise of a big family filled the air. We talked and giggled about our day out on the river while he pleaded to go out later, eager to don his floppy hat and ski bib. And then we talked about the baby of Christmas and the water-walking man.
My cousins don’t struggle to understand becoming part of a family with a Father who loves them. They relate to Him. He’s the One who created the river they walk on and placed them in the family who links arms with them and says, “I won’t let go.”
But unlike the unreliability of their older cousins, the young ones understand that Jesus won’t let them down. His grip won’t slip and He won’t ever fall in. Even when the ice cracks, their booted foot slips, and their feet and legs soak with icy water, the baby of Christmas, the water-walking Son of God never lets them go.