As I review this past year, I find myself amazed at how fast this year has flown by; in fact, I am fascinated at where it has gone. Seems like just yesterday I was preparing for last year’s Christmas Eve service. Then, I began to reminisce over the Christmases I remember the most; the traditions, events I miss, and those I look forward to this year.
What traditions do you establish in your home on Christmas Eve? Do you set food out for Santa and his reindeer? Does each person in your family open a gift just before bed? Some of you may have an annual Christmas Eve party with friends. Maybe you prepare a certain meal. I have a friend who does all the shopping on Christmas Eve with his wife. I have another friend who buys his tree on Christmas Eve, and the whole family decorates it together. Do you drive around and look at Christmas lights? Do you take pictures in Christmas PJs and drink hot chocolate? If I asked you what was your favorite part of Christmas, what would you say?
A song often played at Christmas says, “On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…” Our family often sang it as a memory game when the kids were small. My sons tried to see how fast they could say it. It’s nonsensical content made us laugh as we would end with, “…and a partridge in a pear tree!” The song is about the gifts given from a true love – lords a leaping, ladies dancing, turtle doves, drummers drumming. One year the kids stopped in the middle of the song and with quizzical eyes asked, “Dad, what is that song about?”
As mom gave an explanation of what she knew of the origins of the song, the folklore, and the time it was probably written we all were thinking, what is that song about? After her explanation, I was still confused as to what the author was saying. I still ask, “what’s that song about?”
I wonder if God looks down on us and asks the question, “What is your Christmas about?” As we run up credit card debt and trample one another in shopping malls to get our hands on the latest gadget; as we cover our floors in wrapping paper, tape, and bows; as we frantically fill-up our calendars with parties and events; as we enter and exit stores hearing ‘Happy Holidays’ and respond ‘same to you’; I wonder if God looks down on us and says, “what is this season about for you?”
Luke 2:28-32, “Simeon took him (baby Jesus) in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.'”
In Guatemala, one of their traditions is the placing of baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning. When the Manger Scene is placed in the home for the celebration of Christmas, the infant baby is not put in the manger until the morning of Christmas. Some families draw names to see who will receive the privilege each year. It is an exciting moment when those around see the appearance of Christ in the manger. I marvel at the difference: our children are jumping around for the presents they’ve received from Santa; Guatemalan children are jumping around for the present they’ve received in the form of a tiny baby in a manger.
I challenge you to make your traditions focus on Christ. Make Christ the center of your celebration.