Christmas Traditions & the Joy of Our Unchanging God
By Christine Dean
I love Christmas traditions. The fresh, green smell of the evergreen tree, the crackling warmth of the fire, the contrast of green and red and especially the routine of lighting the candles on the Advent Wreath. As much as I love these traditions, I recognize that with every virtuous intention there is a potential vice, however, even with traditions. Sometimes we can fall prey to the tendency to idolize these traditions and get so wrapped up in practicing them and their celebration that we can lose sight of the reason we are celebrating this season or what those traditions represent. For some time between my childhood in the Catholic church, where it was often easy to get lost in the celebrating of the tradition and my adulthood, I stepped back from the celebration of some of these traditions for fear that they had become idols in a season when my attention was supposed to be drawn to Christ. With tunnel vision, I was ignorant to the ways that those traditions were instilled to guide my attention to Jesus, not divert my attention. Now, as an adult I think there is a happier, more balanced approach. The repetition and routine of traditions, I believe, serves two purposes: to establish the joy we associate with the season and serve as a reminder of our unchanging God. Where tradition stimulates the child in us to remember happy Christmas seasons with family and surrounded by loved ones, the adult recalls this innocence of the pure, Child-like faith in Christ and celebration of his birth. I have found that this can, even in seasons devoid of happiness, still stir-up that glimmer of joy that Christ’s arrival brings to all.
Perhaps the annual return to traditions, however, also serves as a reminder of the nature of our unchanging God. Educational research has found that those things that we have emotional investment in are the easiest for us to remember and internalize. Perhaps the joyful emotion associated with the return to tradition, year after year, the Christmas season can serve as a reminder that God’s steadfast love endures forever, his mercies are the same and unending, and that though the things of this world will pass away, God’s word and his promises will never pass away. As Paul says though, the reminders or reflections of God’s goodness in this life are but mere distorted reflections compared to the glory that we will one day experience when we are with Christ face-to-face. Even though traditions may evolve year by year, and the other things in this world that we may hold onto for comfort will pass away, perhaps traditions trigger a reminder in our hearts as a reflection of the way the Creator made us to pine and yearn for that which is eternally steadfast and unchanging. Praise the Lord, that he, himself is the one who is the ultimate example of that which never changes. During this Christmas season, may we be reminded of him in all that we do to prepare to celebrate his birth!
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Find our ’22 Advent devotional archive online. haymarketchurch.org/advent