BCC Staff Note: Of course we know that Christmas is about Jesus…So why is it that we miss seeing Him in the midst of all the hustle and bustle? Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Jessica Thompson, have teamed up again in Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles, a 25-day advent devotional with readings for parents and kids along with four suggested activities meant to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas. You can purchase the book at Amazon here. Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles is a wonderful Christmas Advent Devotional to help you and your family rejoice and rest in the holiday season.
Family Holiday Traditions
Picture this: The hot chocolate is just the right temperature and the fire is perfect. The blankets are laid out carefully on the floor. The cookies came out perfectly this year. The children are seated together in their matching Christmas pajamas. The Christmas music is just loud enough to hear in between the pauses that you take while you and your spouse read the Christmas story. Your children bow their heads in awe. Ah…Christmas traditions…We look at that little scene and we think, “This is so wonderful, I know they’ll remember this their whole life. I know this will help them love God.”
Is that scene familiar? No? Okay, here’s another directly from our family. All fourteen of us pile into a passenger van that is too small. Not enough seats or seatbelts? No problem, it actually makes it more fun for some of us to sit on the floor! We crank up the “Redneck Christmas” CD and everybody tries to sing louder than the person next to him, the more noise the better. This is what we call fun. We pull up to the first decorated houses, fight about where to park, pile out of the van stepping on each other on the way, laughing, singing, squabbling about wearing coats, and being gleefully obnoxious.
This Christmas Light (Mis)Adventure is our family’s yearly tradition. Phil and I and all of our children and their families look at Christmas lights together. We cram ourselves into one rented van, filled with Fitzpatricks and Thompsons and cookies, hot chocolate, and car seats (if they fit).
Nearly every family has traditions that make the holidays special. We love our traditions. We know that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with trying to make the holidays special for our family in whatever way fits best with our inclinations and circumstances.
Family Traditions Are Wonderful, But…
Traditions can be a great way to draw family together and in this frenzied culture, that’s a good thing. Traditions also build history and permanence, they communicate a sense of identity; they help us know who we are and what we’re like. They give a past and an expected future to our frenetic existence. They make us know that we are also part of something larger than ourselves, we’re part of a family. Family identity can be a wonderful blessing…but it doesn’t save us and we get into trouble when we begin to think it does.
Traditions fail to be a good when we expect them to do something they cannot do. When we find our identity or “okayness” (what the Bible calls “righteousness”) in being the parent, child, or friend with the best traditions or when we make our traditions our savior we are setting ourselves up for trouble. When your plan for the evening falls flat on its face, the kids are crying and one child decides now is as good as time as any to let his flu symptoms make their appearance, how much stock we put in our traditions to assure us that the children will always love us will be evident.
You’ll know when you’re relying on your traditions for more than your should when the cookies burn or when your adult children decide they would rather spend the holidays with their in-laws and you find yourself sliding into anger, depression, guilt, or fear.
Why? Because you are trusting in something other than the Savior to save you and your family.
Born to Save
When the Christ Child was born He was given a specific name, a name that had been bestowed on Him from before His birth, from before the angel’s annunciation and Mary’s acquiescence. It was a name that was given Him before the foundation of the world. The name was “Jesus,” for He was born to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Are our traditions a good? Yes, they can be a great good, but they are not, cannot, save us from our sins. They cannot save our children either. The position of Savior has been filled…and the great news is that at the end of His life He said, “It is finished!”
All of our hopes for our family, for this season, must be centered on Him and His work…not on us, our mad cookie-baking skills, or ability to read the advent story with just the right inflection. He’s the Savior and He’s proclaimed that it’s His work that is perfect.
So…go bake those cookies or rent that van or do whatever your family does and rejoice…just don’t trust in anything but that little seemingly helpless Baby lying in a feeding trough. He’s Jesus. He’s the Savior.
Join the Conversation
In the midst of our fun family Christmas traditions, how can we keep our family’s focus on Christ our Savior?