Yesterday I was sitting with some of our students sharing about our family Christmas traditions. We talked about what food our family would prepare, whether we went to evening or morning church services, if presents were exchanged Christmas day or Christmas eve and how the day was made to be special.
I find that it is always a blessing to be invited to share about my family and traditions and they also appeared to be blessed by the opportunity. When it came time for one of the girls to share I was humbled by what I perceived as the simplicity of her family Christmases as a child. Growing up in Zimbabwe at a time when bread and rice was uncommon, these staples became special treats Christmas. It was hard for me to perceive how a loaf of plain sandwich bread could be seen as a treat. I suppose it is the same as loving mince pies because I only get them at Christmas, or my brother’s famous egg nog!
This same woman went on to share how excited she and her siblings would become at Christmas time, too, because it was the only time when they would get new clothes. I used to also get new clothes sometimes and her excitement showed up my mindset. I used to groan when I’d open a packet containing socks. As I got older I didn’t groan anymore, but I did put them aside for the next gift!
I think what I’ve taken away from her sharing and also hearing the other students share, is that it isn’t so much what my family tradition is that makes the day special for me. It is the fact that I have a loving family who has built these traditions with me. It is also the fact that all of the traditions we shared about involved going to church. What a blessing it is to be raised in a loving family who raises us in the ways of the Lord! I was never allowed to miss the fact that Christmas is about Christ, not clothes or food. These extras enable us to enjoy the day and celebrate but I think that if they were taken away it would still be a joy to gather with my family and close friends to celebrate the birth of my Saviour in fellowship.
I would challenge you to consider what your expectations are this Christmas. Are you putting the expectations on others to get you the perfect gift or are your eyes on the one who has already given you the perfect gift – Christ Jesus, who brought us salvation? Are you focused on making the day perfect by cooking the perfect food, or are you teaching your children about Christ and the miracle of His birth? Do you want to be the perfect host to your friends or are you witnessing to them of the love of our God? Finally, consider what Christmas traditions you are building and which ones do you want to build?
God’s desire has always been to dwell with His people and He made a way for this to happen by sending Christ Jesus, His Son; Emmanuel, God with us!
Old Testament: Exo 29:43-45 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.
Present: Eph 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Future: Rev 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.