Stephanie continues her series entitled “The 12 Days of Christmas.” This time, Stephanie takes a look at changing Christmas traditions.
Changing Christmas Traditions
Today I want to devote an entire devotional to changing Christmas traditions.
Some traditions mean a lot to us because they evoke happy childhood memories. An authentic Scottish shortbread recipe handed down for generations. A sprawling fresh-cut Christmas tree. Piles of beautifully wrapped gifts.
The truth is I haven’t had homemade shortbread in years. Plus, there are actually some store-bought varieties I enjoy more, though I never would have told my mom that.
While I do love to sit back after dark and enjoy the lights and shimmering tinsel on our Christmas tree, I no longer insist that we have a real tree. I’m quite content with our artificial one. In fact, this year we won’t have a tree at all—except for the tiny one on top of our stereo speaker. My hubby is doing some major plumbing renovations and there is a large hole in our living room ceiling. I’d much rather have running water upstairs than a full-sized tree on the main floor.
Generous Gift Giving
My parents were extremely generous. My mom, in particular, loved to give gifts she felt would make the recipient happy. I received countless Christmas presents I certainly didn’t need. And though I wasn’t as extravagant with my own three, I still purchased many things they didn’t need.
Though I still enjoy receiving gifts, as I’ve mentioned, I am trying to be more outwardly focused, thinking about how I can bless those who are truly in need. This is, without a doubt, evidence of God’s work in me. I have spent far too many years focusing on myself.
Happy Christmas Memories Without Gift Giving
So how can I limit gift-giving and still capture those happy memories evoked by piles of presents under the tree? A few years back, I stuffed empty gift bags with tissue paper and used them as decorations. (I think I may do so again next year provided we put up the tree.)
Now imagine this … a houseful of family members young and old. Conversation, laughter, busyness. Catching up on the year that has gone before. Chatting with those you haven’t seen for far too long. This is such a life-giving environment for extroverts such as myself.
As in years gone by, my family still gathers, but there are fewer of us. There is still conversation and laughter, but it is quieter. And it’s not near so busy, which is much easier on the introverts who make up the majority of my family—and my sister who does most of the cooking. We do have the opportunity to catch up. Sometimes we even discuss getting together before another twelve months pass, but it rarely happens. Some who used to join us have moved away. Thanks to 21st century technology, we have spent time Skyping with absent family members. I hope to do so again this year.
This September we had the privilege of traveling to Scotland for my eldest son’s wedding. The family was together and it was wonderful. That plus the fact that we can connect online alleviates any sadness I may feel being separated from my sons and new daughter-in-law.
But to others we’ve said our final goodbyes. There will be no connecting with them and that does leave an empty place in my heart.
Changes Can Weigh Heavily
These changes can weigh heavily on me. Going from fatalistic resignation to melancholy to true joy comes from turning my focus on the Lord, from being thankful that the eternal reason for the Christmas season remains forever unchanged. The Saviour, Jesus Christ, was born to become the Way of salvation.
Your Christmas memories and traditions may be very similar—or they may be vastly different. Perhaps you have never celebrated Christmas and what I’ve been sharing is unfamiliar. If so, I encourage you to think of those traditions that you carry on from one year to the next and those you’ve set aside for one reason or another. And then I want you to consider the following:
Thankfully, no matter what changes, God doesn’t. This has never been more reassuring than at this time of tremendous global upheaval. How thankful I am for Hebrews 13:8 (ESV), which says,
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Five Tips For A Great Christmas
Here are a few tips on how to create happy memories for your children and still keep the focus on the unchanging Saviour:
- Sit down and discuss each person’s favourite Christmas tradition. If possible, include them in this year’s celebrations.
- Talk about what each family member can do to bless someone in need this season.
- Decide on a family project that focuses on giving rather than getting. You may want to choose a project that will continue into the new year.
- Even if you haven’t been doing Advent readings and activities, it isn’t too late to begin.
- Pray together that God would be glorified in every aspect of your holiday preparation and celebration.
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Images courtesy of:
Christmas presents – xxLawrence
Family Group – Samantha Villagran