Christmas is a time when virtually everyone takes part in some tradition. It might be with a church, a community, the office, or a family, but tradition—the repeated actions that happen every year at this time—is almost universal.
Tradition can be a good thing. But it can also be bad. The deciding factor is whether it draws us closer to the King or anesthetizes us so that we don’t realize we are drifting away.
Christmas traditions are like that. Some focus us our thoughts and hearts on what it is we celebrate, making us appreciate what God has done. The net effect is to make us more faithful disciples, committed to the King who was born as that helpless little baby.
Unfortunately, others have another effect. Instead of drawing us closer to the Lord, they can pull us away (for example Christmas parties that rely on alcohol to bring out the “Christmas spirit”). But even more dangerous are those traditions that make us feel we are focusing on Jesus without actually drawing us closer to Him. These are the ones that numb us to what is happening in our lives, leaving us with an empty feeling when all is said and done because, in reality, they haven’t really brought us to Jesus. Usually, it isn’t the tradition itself that is bad—it is the lack of focus on Jesus in our hearts and minds.
Many of our traditions can have this effect: Christmas decorations, Christmas trees, Christmas dinner. Gifts given to one another—all of these can help us feel that Christmas feeling, without pointing us to Christ Himself.
Even traditions that are explicitly focused on Jesus—the children’s program telling the Christmas story, the Christmas eve service or candlelight communion focusing on what the baby placed in the manger actually did for us—can distract us from Jesus Himself because we have heard the stories or participated in the tradition so many times, we can be distracted from the very message they are conveying!
Put simply, Christmas is a birthday celebration. But it is not our birthday (or our kids’ or grandkids’ birthday)! We would consider people who celebrate our birthday by buying themselves presents or eating their favorite foods to be self-centered. So what does it say if our celebration of Christmas is all about making us—or others we love—feel good?
Disciples of Jesus need to focus on Him—it is that focus that draws us closer to Him, allowing Him to strengthen us. But for that to happen, we need to make certain that traditions are not the focus of our Christmas celebration. We need to remember that we are celebrating a birthday—and that the one whose birthday it is isn’t absent. He is here with us, and we need to make Him our focus.
We need to ask ourselves, what would Jesus like for His birthday this year? We can then celebrate by giving Him our gifts—our words, our actions, our thoughts!
Know Jesus and Be Faithful!
Happy Birthday to the King!