Christmas Traditions and the Gospel
After moving out of my parent’s home and into a house of my own, I began making my own Christmas traditions which includes the all-important “real” Christmas tree. This year, just after Thanksgiving, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Farmer’s Market to purchase my tree, hoping for the one that is “just right” for the small space I have allotted. And much to my delight, I left with a small tree strapped to my rooftop, ready for lights and trimming...
However, in between the purchasing and the fully decorated tree is quite a process! First the sawing off of the end of the trunk, then the wrestling of the tree stand, then the readjusting because of course the tree is crooked. When I finally got it into the house, there were needles all over the floor, my hands were covered with pine sap, and I had to turn the air conditioner on to alleviate the sweat that had been worked up during this process! And then the thought occurred to me,“what happened to chestnuts roasting on an open fire?!”
Traditions are important and I hope to make the case, biblical. Of course, so many times our right desire for traditions to be established with our families is made slightly more stressful by our own self-imposed heightened expectations, i.e. desires for stockings to be hung by the chimney with care and for children to be nestled all snug in their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing in heads. Wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and daughters seem to have an inborn desire to make holidays a special time and dare I say, a perfect time, for all involved. So how do we take right desires for lasting traditions and infuse those traditions with the Gospel so that we keep the main thing, the main thing?
From the very first families in Scripture, we find God commanding man and woman to be diligent in telling and passing on His Truths to each generation. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut.6:6-7). Traditions, by definition, are the handing down of statements and beliefs from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice. As adults who are further along in their walk with Christ, we know of His faithfulness, goodness, strength, and grace in increasing measure, and we are given the privilege of passing on that knowledge to those who come behind us. For Christians, God intended the tradition of teaching His Truths along the way to remind us of where we come from and where we are going – God made us, sin has distorted us, Christ came to redeem us, and ultimately, He is returning to restore all that was lost in the fall. Can we (and shouldn't we!) make this the basis for our Christmas traditions?
As Christmas day is quickly approaching, let me encourage you to take a moment to consider the traditions that you partake in and are perhaps endeavoring to pass along to your children and grandchildren—are those traditions rooted and grounded in God’s unfailing love for His children? Rather than trying to create the perfect atmosphere for tree trimming, instead consider the conversation possibilities with those young and old who will be helping. As you hang ornaments, talk about those who gave you the ornaments and how you have seen God at work in their lives. As the needles fall to the ground and the tree begins to turn brown, turn the conversation towards Heaven where “death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4).
Consider what an opportunity we have this month to reflect Christ, to pass on the tradition of being Christ-like, to a watching world by serving them rather than demanding to be served. Christ was born to be a servant. Reflecting on Bethlehem ought to encourage us to “have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7). Serving is not a matter of doing more and becoming more overwhelmed. Serving is about denying self and putting the needs of others first, so that the expectations for perfectly wrapped gifts become secondary to looking to the needs and interests of others, counting others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). Let us prayerfully consider how our Christmas traditions can promote and remain consistent with the desire to embrace and to pass along to our children the tradition of knowing and loving God, of spending time in His Word, and of reflecting Christ by serving and loving others.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Christmas Traditions and the Gospel