This time of year it is easy to be melancholy about our traditions. We recall the ones that we enjoyed and let go of the ones that pain us. I remember 13 kids, waking early, listening to adults still bustling about, wrapping, decorating and organizing for Christmas morning. We’d have gone to bed with no sign of Christmas and awoke to piles of packages and a decorated tree. At 5 am we’d all line up, youngest first and for about 30 minutes we’d squeal with delight and chatter away as my mother and older siblings looked on, bleary eyed from a very long night. That was my mother’s tradition. We were never a part of decorating, wrapping, shopping and sharing the joy of Christmas preparations.
When I married we decided to make our own traditions, then with each passing year our family grew. Often with more individuals we were more contentious. It was clear that the traditions I learned didn’t make Christmas or any other day a happy day.
Then I got saved and found the meaning of Christmas and meaning in my life. I realized there were so many more important things to focus on than baubles, wrapping paper and decorations…. Christmas became more of a time to watch others enjoying their traditions and just soaking in the truth of life in Christ. Christmas is a day… life in Christ is the gift.
Now we celebrate Christmas Eve with family, Christmas Day we invite all who want to join us to a Chinese restaurant… no ASAP necessary, just a time to laugh and make sure no one has to spend Christmas Day alone. Our traditions can never fulfill what Christmas actually means; Unto us a child is given, unto to us a son is born and the government shall be upon His shoulders: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Amidst all the memories of past Christmas’s with drunken parties, the hung over mornings, a sense that something was seriously missing… I’ve found the missing piece and no bauble, wrapped or unwrapped will ever matter more than finding that the true traditions are the ones we experience every day.
The joy of Christmas is in knowing God lives within, the decorations are smiling eyes, a loving heart and a warm embrace to our fellow man.
As an unconventional Christian, I bristle at the term traditionalist. I love reading N.T.Wright, who has challenged my once traditional view of heaven. Scott McKnight, who in his book The Blue Parakeet, challenged me to look at my own cherry picking of scripture. Rethinking Hell, a site I frequent that encourages my faith in a loving and gracious God who does not torture unbelievers for eternity. I thank God I no longer hold to traditional views that I see as unscriptural. I can challenge my own views and others.
Tradition can be a warm fuzzy feeling or it can bring loneliness and heartbreak because we cannot continue an idealized vision of what our family “should look like”. I recall someone saying to me please don’t ‘should’ on me. The many obligations we carry like emotional baggage simply because we can no longer fulfill our traditions.
Tradition can also blind us to truth. We accept what was given to us without question. That is why I call myself an unconventional Christian. I allow myself to question, to be challenged and to stand on the love of Christ and not on the word of man.
Today I prefer to find the joy of ordinary days. Any day with breath, any day without drama, any day I share the joy of Christ in my life is a great day. Traditions be damned.
If you’re stuck working to fulfill traditions, make a new tradition. That you’ll celebrate the days that are important to you, your family, your loved ones. Have a “It’s a good day to have a party” party. Instead of struggling through Christmas without a loved one, make a totally different celebration. I’m a great believer in volunteering and encouraging people to find their joy.
Our family will probably be at Sakanas Christmas afternoon for dinner. Although, if one of us doesn’t feel like Chinese we might just decide to have ice cream for dinner and watch old movies for Christmas Day. Whatever we decide we will remember that Dec. 25th is the day, chosen to celebrate the greatest joy in life. The birth of God, come to earth to bring great cheer, love and eternal life. The greatest gift of all is free, eternal life, paid in full by Jesus Christ and offered to all who only need to call on Him and follow. Don’t allow your traditions to hinder you from experiencing Gods gift.