I would love to know more about all of you. Who are you? What is your story? What traditions do you keep in preparation for celebrating the Christ Child’s birth? What traditions do you have that are unique to you and the people you are blessed to be with?
My children always look forward to the night we put up the tree. They love going through all of the ornaments and asking me how, when, and where we acquired each one. Afterward we turn down the house lights, turn up the Christmas music, and sit before the tree in quiet contemplation of the season along with large mugs of root beer float. This tradition was not started by me. It was actually started for my sister and me – our mother was pregnant with our brother at the time – when I was six years old.
My home was Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when I was six. I received a two-piece bathing suit for Christmas that year, and it was so warm outside that my parents made us root beer floats to cool us off after we’d decorated the little artificial evergreen tree we’d brought with us from the States. My parents grew up in northern suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota; so, this was quite remarkable for them.
It became a tradition for us, no matter where we lived or how cold it was outside. We decorated our tree then we’d make large mugs of root beer float, turn out all the lights except for those on the tree, turn up the Christmas music, and sit down before the tree to enjoy the light display and our cold, creamy, root beer concoctions. My parents still have special over-sized mugs just for root beer floats that usually don’t see use except during our once-a-year tradition.
My first Christmas with my husband was very romantic, and I couldn’t wait to share this tradition with him. We went to the local discount store and chose lights and bulbs with a lot of oohs and aahs like many newly married couples. Then we brought them home and added them to the twisted branches of that very same artificial tree I decorated with my family back in Cuba along with the special “First Christmas Together” ornaments people had given us. We hung the last bulb together with a sweet little kiss then sat back for a moment to bask in the light of our first tree. My parents had gifted us that tree along with two root beer float mugs of our own. I slipped away and quickly prepared two floats with the wonderful anticipation of snuggling up with him and enjoying this tradition together. I certainly had not envisioned what actually happened when I brought them back. Apparently, I had married a man who doesn’t like root beer floats. How could I have not known this before we were married?! Well, the romance quickly fizzled as I consumed two root beer floats and glared at my man. How was I going to carry on my tradition with a man who couldn’t appreciate it?
Traditions are often a treat and, when handled properly, can be very important for training ourselves and/or our offspring to honor what is important to us. Deuteronomy 6:7 says to “Impress [these commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” That is, of course, referring to teachings and religious observances handed down, not eating root beer floats in front of a tree. I believe my emphasis on holding onto my family’s tradition that year would be considered a tradition that obscured God’s word. In the gospels of Matthew(15:1-9) and Mark (7:1-13), Jesus accused the teachers and law observers of doing this. He quoted the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13) “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Traditions created by people in remembrance or celebration of an event, a change, a belief, custom, or opinion are not bad. The question I needed to ask myself that night was this: Is it a distraction from what we are really celebrating?
A few years after our first Christmas together, my husband and I had a couple of boys and another one on the way. My babies were more receptive to my tradition than my man had been his first time. Shortly after my fourth baby was brought into this world I was born again in Christ, and the truth of Christmas became embedded in the tradition I wanted to hand down. Now we are not just quietly contemplating what might be placed beneath our tree for Christmas morning. Now we ponder the lessons we’re given through the reading of the Word, through hearing of the child born for us and worshiping Him as the shepherds did; through seeking the King of kings and Lord of lords as the wise men did.
The romance of Christmas has returned. Much to my husband’s relief, it does not depend on him. Our traditions are dependent and centered on Christ. Let me tell you, that kind of romance is a whole lot more exciting. As my husband sips his root beer and eats his bowl of ice cream and the rest enjoy their root beer floats, we discuss with our children why we are celebrating. I appreciate the man I share my heart with because the love of Jesus, the one born on Christmas day, binds our hearts together as one.
LORD, You are the strength that binds this family from our hearts out. You are the reason we celebrate this time of year, and You are the reason we are observing with our traditions. Jesus, thank You for becoming flesh and living among us. You are wonderful! You are full of grace and truth. You knew no sin, and in You we become the righteousness of God, we are made acceptable to You and placed in a right relationship with You by Your loving-kindness. Bless my friends and family in their observances of You. Be blessed, LORD. You are so worthy of praise and worship, be blessed. I pray many will be transformed by the renewing of their minds this year; that they will fall to their knees in submission to You; they will give their hearts to You because You are worthy. You are worthy of all our love. You are truly our everything. You are so worthy of celebrating. I pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.