Most of us have traditions that we want to happen every Christmas or memories of a past time that cause us to miss those rituals. Growing up, we always went to my Mamaw’s (very southern term for Grandmother) house on Christmas Eve. We had several traditions, but my favorite was the whole family gathering around to read the Christmas story. I remember when I was old enough to read it and what an honor that was. Mamaw passed away three years ago, but every Christmas, a smaller circle of family gathers at my parents to read the Christmas story. I hope to continue this custom as long as I live.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Why does that particular custom mean so much? I love reading the Christmas story since that provides a moment to be still and reflect on Jesus, who should be the focus of the season but so often gets marginalized in the busyness. I like it because it forces me to shift my attention off my wants and onto others. I hope that you have some type of Christmas tradition that helps you do those two things as well. If not, perhaps this is the Christmas that you start a tradition for those two purposes!
First, Jesus’ birth really is an inconceivable action that I often gloss over, and I don’t think I’m alone. The fact that our Father in Heaven would send his only Son to earth knowing how many people would reject him is hard to wrap my mind around. Think of the person you love the most, and think about sending he or she into an environment where he or she will be betrayed by a close friend, endure injustice at a magnitude that we can’t fathom, and be mentally and physically tortured up to the point of being executed. I can’t imagine doing that, yet God sent Jesus to be born, which is the initial action that began unfolding these very events.
Second, becoming self-consumed at Christmas is easy, and we need something that helps us fight this natural tendency. Take a moment and think about your family and friends. Has someone in your sphere of influence suffered a miscarriage? While we celebrate, she mourns. Does someone have one or both parents who have died or simply are uninvolved for another reason? As we smile, he or she misses them. Is someone divorced or going through a rough season of marriage? Is someone single but longing to be in a relationship? Is another person enduring a broken relationship between a close family member where the two of them are not on speaking terms? As we hug our loved ones, these people sit in relational brokenness. Christmas is not a merry season for everyone, but often loss and sadness are magnified in the holidays.
When we focus on Jesus and consider others, then we see our role as Jesus followers in the Christmas season: follow Jesus’ pattern and do for others what he does for us. Jesus came onto our turf to experience heartache and sit with us in our brokenness. Christmas provides a great opportunity for us to do that for others.
Whose “world” can you enter to simply mourn with them? Whose hurt can you acknowledge to share the burden? Whose relational brokenness can you sit in to begin offering Jesus’ restoration? Who can you pray for that views this season as one of loss and sadness? As we pray, our Father in Heaven can begin to shift their perspective and guide them to see little moments of joy that they would otherwise miss.
This Christmas, let’s utilize our traditions to put our focus and attention where it should be.
Let’s follow Jesus’ pattern and do for others what he does for us. As we come alongside others, I think we will truly honor our Father’s gift to us.