How much do I love the Christmas holidays? Well, if I just see a piece of paper with a block of green alongside a block of red I start to hear “Jingle Bells” in my head. I’m just fine with people telling me “Happy Holidays,” “Season’s Greetings,” “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” or “May the Force Be With You.” And I’m not even tired of the holiday soundtracks in the stores. (I am pretty much tired of shopping, however.)

There are many things I love about the holidays—and probably chief among them are the special opportunities they provide for spending extra time with family, and doing things together that are unique to the holidays. I think I know where my love for all of this comes from.

It’s very likely that the story of Christmas is the first story I ever really knew. It was probably read or told to me by my mom or dad in the warmest possible way—supercharged with all of their own love for the story, and with affection and confidence in all that the story represents. This time of year has always been filled with love and joy, and I’ve never wanted it any other way.

In families raised in the Christian tradition, the story of Jesus and his birth is not just a story, it’s THE story. The story that changed everything. The story at the very heart of our faith. This year, as every year, we will share that story one more time with one another, and the joy and hope that it brings will spill over into everything else that we do. The story of how God came into the world in the form of the Christ Child is at the heart of all of our holiday traditions and activities.

May this season be one of hope and promise for you and those you love. And may this special time carry us with joy into the new year.