Have you ever sung the praises of the family traditions in your life?  Maybe not publicly, but how do you promote what you do each year for Christmas, New Year’s, Birthdays, etc?  My wife and I are trying to decide what traditions we will incorporate into our annual Christmas celebration.  We each come with different things our families did when we grew up, and we have discovered some more meaningful things to do as well.  Each night before bedtime, we have been reading a bible story which leads up to the birth of Christ, and then having the children put a magnetic number decoration on a tree.  This is something neither of us did, but we feel it is a new tradition that has significance in pointing them to the real Reason for the Christmas season.  What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? 

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  Colossians 2:8

When I was growing up, my mother stepped her game up a notch and did quite a bit of decorating and baking and making sure lots of little things reminded us that December 25 was approaching.  She made several types of cookies and fudge that she never made any other time of the year, so they were special to us, not just because they tasted good.  I have mostly all good memories of celebrating these holidays with my family, even as we all held candles at the Christmas Eve service, no disasters that I can recall.  The smell of the Christmas tree, the records playing on our big old stereo, cards from friends and family lining the walls, the anticipation that seemed everywhere.  Everything wasn’t overtly religious or reinforced that it was about God’s Son, but it all worked together to remind us of how special a gift that Jesus was the night he was born.  What things are most meaningful in helping you appreciate the real meaning of Christmas?

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
   They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”  Mark 7:6-8

Traditions can be good if they point you in the right direction and remind you of what is truly important, but they can also distract you and misalign your priorities as well.  Richard Foster reminds us in the book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ that the goal of each discipline is not that act itself (prayer, worship, etc), but what it brings about in your spiritual life.  The same can be said of traditions, they can help reinforce the meaning behind why you do what you do, but the danger is that they can become the focus as well.  Instead of just getting a really good meal at Thanksgiving, we forget to be thankful that we even can eat.  I’m not here to disparage or tell you to change traditions, but just to examine them for what they are.  If they do more to distract, then maybe let them go for a while.  Or maybe find a new tradition to try in its place. 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

As you celebrate the birth of our Savior this year, may you be reminded of how a little child born over 2000 years ago can still influence the world each day in remarkable ways.  May He still have that influence on you this year, whether you have known Him since childhood, or just found out how significant He is.  May you be Blessed this Christmas!

Yours in Christ,
Clark