Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Traditions

     It is healthy and beneficial for families to develop, maintain, and strengthen annual Christmas family traditions. Such traditions enhance feelings of well-being and security. Nevertheless, it is a mistake when families devote energy and imagination to such traditions without intentionally intertwining those family Christian traditions with their local church. After all, what godly mom or dad wants his child or grandchild to grow up with warm and fuzzy thoughts about Christmas and family without those thoughts being inextricably intertwined with church, worship of God, exaltation of Christ, and Christian ministry? The former without the latter is hollow.
     Last night I was meditating on the rapidly approaching Christmas weekend and my annual Christmas Eve pastor's Christmas story time that parents bring their little ones to every year. It dawned on me that my own daughter has never had a Christmas celebration that was not also intertwined with the church she has grown up in, and I would not have it any other way. Family Christmas traditions are wonderful, but are of no eternal usefulness if they are not intentionally intertwined with church Christmas celebrations. After all, who would want his child to not think of church when he thinks of Christmas? It is far too easy to excise Christ from Christmas if there is no church in Christmas, since the church is the pillar and ground of the truth.
     Allow me to suggest four benefits of intertwining family Christmas tradition with church Christmas tradition, beginning this year: First, it helps to maintain a proper balance between family and church. Imbalance is a real and frequent danger with my generation and those that are younger. The argument that families are more important than church is a specious argument in light of family being temporal and Christ being eternally glorified in the church. In fact, the two institutions are complimentary and cannot properly exist without the other. Second, intertwining of church and family Christmas traditions helps to focus each generation's attention to the birth of Christ instead of focusing on distractions. When families gather for the church part of the Christmas tradition, the children are reinforced against what they see and hear from the world around them about Christmas as a secular exercise. Christian families need such church support for their children and are remiss when they discount and ignore opportunities to receive such reinforcement. Third, intertwining church and family Christmas traditions helps to show the proper context in which family should properly exist. It is insane to think one can have a happy and successful family apart from full integration into a gospel preaching church, and raising your children in such a context will go a long way toward ensuring they do not erroneously think their future family can be healthy and sound without committed involvement in that means of God's grace which is the church. Finally, the intertwining of church and family Christmas traditions is a steady and reliable means of bringing the gospel to the attention of unsaved friends and family members each and every year. Who knows? Maybe God will have so worked in your lost loved one's life that this year he will pay attention to the old, old story.
     How does one intertwine family Christmas traditions with church Christmas traditions? By consciously participating in every church Christmas activity and service each year. In the beginning, a teen may object to such an intermingling of family and church, especially if it is not something he grew up doing. However, forward thinking parents recognize that next year there will be less opposition and more anticipation, until eventually, hopefully, your children will come to accept the two traditions together. The goal, of course, is for your children to see the two traditions as mutually complimentary and then as a single tradition.
     God blesses moms and dads who are committed to something more than managing the chaos of raising children and serving as providers. Real parenting involves not only personality development, but also imparting deep seated and important values. Christmas without the centrality of Christ's birth is sacrilege. Christmas without serious commitment to the role of church in recognizing, appreciating, proclaiming, and exalting Jesus Christ's birth, life, sacrifice, resurrection, ascension, and second coming is selling the entire Christmas event short as just another marketing opportunity.
     May your Christmas, this year and every year, be Christ-centered and local church oriented.  God bless you.