Christmas Traditions

Reflections on Luke 2:1-20

We all have Christmas traditions.  Some are long lasting ones which have been passed from one generation to the next.  Others are new traditions that started out of necessity. Every family that I know has at least one tradition at Christmas time. 

Some of our traditions are closely connected to the story of Jesus’ birth.  Our family always attended the Christmas Eve service and still does!  (Of course it is very different now that I lead the service!)  There we hear and experience the story of Jesus being born into our world.  The candlelight part has always been my favorite which gives us a glimpse of the power of the light of Christ shining in our dark world.  Others have traditions at home or at church that make direct ties to the story of Jesus coming into the world. I hope that even with these traditions, you talk about with your children so that the connection is not forgotten.

However, most of our traditions appear to have little to do with Jesus’ birth. If you are someone who is committed to keeping Christ in Christmas, consider trying to make connections between your family’s cherished traditions and the real story of Christmas.  Many of these have been shared before without much creativity.  Remembering that gifts are given because God gave us the most precious gift we could ever imagine – Godself with us (Emmanuel) – for Christmas.  Of course we give others gifts just as the magi first brought gifts for Jesus.  We put up a Christmas tree (attributed to Martin Luther by legend and is definitely a German gift to the season) which is an evergreen to symbolize eternal life and is covered with lights to remember that Christ is the light of the world.  Many of us top our tree with either a star or an angel both of which have major roles in the Biblical story.  The trick of course is to share these reminders of our faith with our families so that they are never forgotten.

It is of course trickier with some of the other traditions that we have.  Most of us have a great feast on either Christmas day or Christmas Eve if not both. A meager meal would tie directly to the story of Jesus’ humble birth, but the feast can also be a reminder of the heavenly feast that Jesus’ death and resurrection makes possible for all of us.  The cookies and candies are temptations that are hard to resist.  Some of the cookies connect to the story – stars, angels, even circles to represent everlasting life – tie to the story. Many cultures also have special Christmas cookies that have been shared at Christmas time because of their symbolism.  Some candy does as well – the candy cane is the easiest example – it is shaped like a shepherd’s staff (or a “J” for Jesus), it is white for purity of Christ along with red for the blood Christ sheds for us.  I bet with a little bit of creativity, you can tie even more traditions to our great story of faith.

I am still struggling with how to tie our annual Christmas Eve visit to McDonalds (it started out of a need to eat quickly between services on my internship) to the larger narrative but I have not given up trying to figure that one out too. When I do I will share it with my daughters even as my husband rolls his eyes at me!

Merry Christmas!  Enjoy your family traditions and help your family see Christ in the midst of them!