Christmas is an important time of year. As sinful and forgetful people, we often need the reminder of Christ’s incarnation amidst the sadness and brokenness in our own lives and the world we live in.
But the first year we were married, we sat in our hot, humid apartment unit, not quite knowing how to celebrate Christmas. Both of us grew up in homes with few traditions around Christmas – so this was a blank slate for our family.
We knew we didn’t really want to buy into the commercial and materialistic excesses of the year, but not much else. So that year we made a feeble (but delicious) attempt at some cross-shaped cookies, and resolved to be a bit more intentional next Christmas.
Story stones. Card-making and writing. Advent readings. Carol-singing. Each year brings new attempts, new refinements as we carve out our own family traditions, all in bursts of trial and error.
Admittedly in all of this it’s easy to get swept away in the traditions and miss the point of Christmas entirely. Which traditions are worth keeping? Which should be discarded?
I like Noel Piper’s clarity in her book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions. In it she says that tradition is:
“…the handing down of information, beliefs, worldview from one generation to another by word of mouth and by regular repetition of example of ceremony of celebration.” (p.26)
In the same book, she writes this encouragement and challenge:
“Only God can bequeath God to our children (John 1:12)… Now although we cannot bequeath God to our children, we can help them know Him and understand Him in ways that prepare them to believe in His name. “Everyday” and “especially” traditions in a family are an important part of that teaching, of picturing who God is and what he’s done in our home and in the world. Traditions are a vital way of displaying our greatest treasure, of showing what–Who–is most important to us…” (p.18)
So we press on with our faltering attempts to saturate our family patterns with signposts to Christ – showing Jesus, the child born a King, God with us, the Suffering Saviour, as most important to us. And whether you’re single or married, whatever your traditions look like, may God richly bless you too, as you lay up God’s words in your hearts and pass His words to the next generation.
“We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.”