The pictures and emails abound. Titles resembling these seem to flood us this time of year:
Our five favorite Christmas crafts
Creating your family traditions
Fun with your family this holiday
Our must-do holiday list
Sometimes, it is overwhelming. Often it can be depressing. The world of Media tells us that we are bad parents if we don't DO and GIVE all these things.
I am not against having family traditions. I just hope to hold a realistic view of how they should or shouldn't fit into our celebration of Christmas.
I have three concerns about family traditions at Christmas. Please allow me to share what has been on my heart lately. Our lives change from one year to the next, and while I can understand the comfort that many people receive from having the same family traditions repeated every year, I have to say that I'm not much of a tradition-ist.
First: Some family traditions set up unrealistic expectations for the next year. If you tell your children (or they infer from your comments) that this event or gift is going to be a family tradition for each year, there will be disappointment when you cannot produce it again next year. Or worse yet, they don't like the event and end up worried that they will have to attend every year. Maybe your daughter loves the idea of seeing The Nutcracker Ballet every year, but your son is bored out of his mind. How will they view this tradition next year? Are you willing to be flexible and make choices based upon the whole family's desires, or are you going to drag unwilling members along anyway?
There is a balance to be found between teaching your children to be a good sport and enjoy watching others be happy and being a parent who shows no compassion to those who aren't having fun. Each family has to make these decisions on a case by case basis. Maybe the ballet is a Mommy-daughter event, while the guys go see movie together, or go watch a sporting event. Be realistic.
Second: This is a big one MOST people avoid talking about: Most Family Traditions cost money. Maybe you think they're not that expensive. Perhaps they're not. But to the parents who are struggling to feed and clothe their children, or a working class family that needed to replace the furnace, have the car repaired, or take a sick child to the Doctor last month, being unable to keep these traditions can make them feel like a failure. Hardworking people who are focused on their families are often making a decision between buying food for Christmas day and purchasing a present. That last $20 before payday can only be spent once. If you are in this situation, you have my prayers. We've been there, done that. God has always provided. Usually it was not in the way we expected, or even in the way we would have chosen, but He never failed. So what if our girls didn't get to go to the movies with their friends or watch a play? A lack of presents under the tree doesn't mean we don't love our children, it usually just means we love them enough to do what is best for them, even when it doesn't line up with what happens in the house next door! It is a much more important thing to teach your children to rely upon God than to teach them to look forward to traditions that may be unrealistic for next year ~ if ever!
If you truly want to start some family traditions, focus on ones that will and can be repeated without cost. Read in the Book of Luke about Christ's birth, sing Christmas Carols, talk about what God has done for you this past year. Choose to focus on being thankful for all the blessings you've received, not what you might have missed!
Which brings me to my third concern: Do your family traditions glorify things, or do they focus on Christ? We as Christians NEED to get back to the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place: the true reason Jesus was born was to live a sinless life and give His life as a ransom for ours! The angels appeared to the shepherds with a glorious message: "Fear not: for, behold, I bring your good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the LORD."
If your focus this Christmas is on the birth of a Savior, then your family will have all they need. Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection show us how great is our need for a Savior. He shows us our Sin, and He gently says "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Only Christ can forgive our sins. When we bow before Him, and accept His gift of forgiveness, true Joy fills our hearts.
Enjoy time with your family and friends, whether you have family traditions or not.
Through it all, keep your focus on Christ!