From the weekend following Thanksgiving Day until Christmas, our family has the tradition of spending 15 to 30 minutes each evening together wherein we light our Advent candle, read the Bible, pray together and sing a Christmas carol.
It’s a Christmas tradition we have observed for 20 years in one way or another.
My wife puts in a lot of effort and works months ahead to prepare for the Advent season, securing a daily prize (which is often an object lesson of some sort), and builds a schedule in which each family member is assigned a special task (such as lighting the candle, moving the appropriate part of the Advent calendar accordingly, and so on). The traditions we observe help to keep us grounded in an otherwise chaotic schedule (which is not to say that we don’t have our moments of chaos!).
There is for us a great deal of meaning in these moments and I expect that one day they may be as much joy in the memory of them as there is the doing of them. Still, while such traditions have profound value for us (as some traditions undoubtedly do for you in your own home), we try to never allow them to become ends unto themselves. We remind ourselves over and over again that they are merely “pointers” to Jesus’ love and power and the ritual of doing them (or any other ritual) must never replace the living relationship we have with our Heavenly Father through Jesus, His Son.
Think the traditions commonly associated with Christmas. Those that may seem pretty secular may have originally had some sort of spiritual significance in their beginning. For instance, as much as we sometimes go overboard with gift-giving on the one hand, we can go to the other extreme as well in our lament over the materialism associated with it. But gift-giving originally represented something meaningful as it allowed us a small taste of what God did in giving us His Son as a sacrifice for our sin.
Indeed, while the gift-giving of today little resembles the personal sacrifice of what we find in the gift of God’s Son, it can still be a meaningful expression of our devotion to Him and an opportunity for sweet fellowship with Him if we give with the same loving and gracious attitude that moved His heart.
What traditions do you observe each year as the nights grow both longer and colder? Do lights adorn your tree or your house? Might they be reminders of Jesus, the true light of the world entering the darkness of our lives? Do you have family gatherings that could in small measure remind us of the fellowship we have with God and with the spiritual family to which He has joined us? Do you cook or have special meals with many different foods that perhaps tantalizingly bring to mind the banquet we enjoy with God spiritually as we feast upon the truths of His Word? Maybe it’s too obvious to mention that so many of the Christmas carols we love to hear and sing at Christmas time are really songs of worship that bid us to “Come, let us adore Him!”
In all your Christmas festivities enjoy your Christmas traditions, but don’t settle for allowing them to merely be the point of your Christmas season. Rather, see them as “pointers” that point to the Person for Whom we were created and for Whom the season is named.
Let your “Christmas,” therefore, be about Christ. Enjoy the season. Enjoy the fellowship. Enjoy the songs, lights, and foods. But most of all, “enjoy” Jesus. True worship, after all, is characterized by savoring the worth of the Savior. He is worthy and the affection you lavish on Him and the adoration you pour out upon Him will not be squandered but will render for you a sweet fragrance that no scented holiday candle or freshly baked Christmas cookie can possibly rival.
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9a ESV).
A Hunger For More