Time to decorate—it was Christmas! Down came boxes of ornaments, each filled with its own sweet story. But one box brought instant stress! How could I have forgotten? The box overflowed with my attempts to adopt other people’s traditions. As a child, my family’s Christmas was just about Santa. But when my husband and I trusted Christ, we wanted our family to enjoy the truly Christian traditions we had missed out on. Our problem? We now had more “traditions” than days and energy! Perhaps you, like many families, have faced the same problem. How can Christians use their traditions to help their families grow in the love of God?
Remember your goal
What is your family’s goal at Christmas? Good family traditions can stir up gratitude for those who have contributed significantly to our lives. Traditions also become lasting memories to seal family bonds. Yet Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth! Shouldn’t every Christian family’s goal be to cultivate a deeper love for Jesus (John 17:25-26)? Ask yourself: which of our traditions help our family reach this goal? Some traditions add to life’s meaning but others trivialize Christmas. How can you choose wisely?
Four questions to ask God
- What traditions will help our family value Jesus most?
Christmas celebrates God’s amazing gift to us (2 Corinthians 9:15). Many Christians rightly say, “It wouldn’t be Christmas without gifts.”. But new clothes wear out. Toys break. Even unique gadgets hold our interest only so long. Ask your family, “Where is your favorite gift from last Christmas?” and they may answer with blank stares.
Gifts can be sweet reminders of our love for one another. But Jesus came to give us what is truly better—a new heart that will praise Him joyfully forever. To all who in wonder-filled fear turn from sin and trust in Jesus, God gives forgiveness (Galatians 4:4-6). What would it take for your family to experience Jesus as God’s better-than anything gift? Begin by asking Him to deepen your love for Jesus. Ask for new hearts for all in your family who do not yet know Him, the Prince of Peace and King of history.
- What traditions might God use to draw our family closer to Him and to one another?
Even our taste buds react to the memory of melt-in-your-mouth Christmas cookies. Your kids may get hungry just thinking about all the delicious ingredients. Baking may be a perfect fit for your family. But, for many of us, hunting for specialty ingredients and spending a day in the kitchen does not draw us closer to Jesus. Would it go against your convictions to enjoy store-bought cookies this year?
Remember your goal. Amazing recipes cannot satisfy your family’s hunger for God. Even His most delicious gifts can never be our greatest happiness. Christmas tells us that Jesus came to fill our hearts with Himself. Ask God to give you and your children hearts that hunger for Him (Matthew 5:6). Pray for sweet family times reading God’s Word together. Make this Christmas a time of tasting and seeing that Jesus is good and ever so satisfying (Psalm 34:8).
- Will this tradition distract us from our joy in Christ?
The list of “supposed-to-do” Christmas activities seems to grow every year. The calendar quickly fills with rehearsals, parties, performances, recitals, festivals, and gift exchanges. If December means your family is always on the go, Christmas devotions easily become an afterthought. Will this year be different? One reality of the pandemic is that it gives us an opportunity to resist the rush and crush of December. We have this time to embrace the joy of Christmas.
True Christmas joy comes as we give our lives to Jesus (Luke 24:52). It helps to ask yourself, “If we give our time, money and energy to this commitment, will our family have more joy?” Joy in Jesus increases as we do whatever He wants. This may mean asking Him to rewrite our to-do list. Ask God to help you resist the pressure to keep up with other’s expectations. Pray for help in managing time so that, without rush, each person in the family can engage with the awe-inspiring truths you’ve just read in His word (Psalm 19:8).
- How could this tradition help us love our neighbors who don’t yet know Christ?
Who doesn’t enjoy the dazzling decorations and sparkling lights of Christmas? Your beautiful display may bless your neighbors as much as your own family! Yet the excitement of decorations and lights doesn’t last long. Christmas is the time to bless your neighbors with this truth: only the beauty of Jesus’ light never grows dim (John 1:4). Ask God to use your hands, feet, voices, minds and hearts to help your neighbors enjoy Jesus, the true beauty of Christmas. Ask God to help you recognize opportunities to include neighbors in your family worship (Mark 12:30-31).
As the years go by, we’ve discovered that the most meaningful Christmas traditions are the simplest ones. Worship with our family at home and in church. Celebrating Jesus through reading Scripture together and discussing life-giving truths. Singing our favorite Christmas hymns. And to add even more joy—inviting neighbors to join us.
So, where is your heart this Christmas? Is it time to let go of a tradition? In the midst of the season that celebrates Jesus’ birth, how full is the measure of your joy in Him? A better Christmas awaits the family that treasures Jesus. This year, why not lead your children to the One who is betterthananything a tradition-filled Christmas tries to offer?
Note: I wrote A Better Than Anything Christmas, to help you lead your family to the One who is better-than-anything! See the Christmas story unfold to reveal the glorious truth of Jesus—who He is and why He came. God prepared the world for Jesus, and He will prepare your heart to celebrate this Christmas in a new and lasting way.
Barbara Reaoch, author of A Better Than Anything Christmas (available October 19, 2020) is the former Director of the Children’s Division at Bible Study Fellowship International. They now live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and attend Bethlehem Baptist Church. You can connect with her at www.barbarareaoch.com.