Traditions have a deeper hold on us than we realize, and at no other time of year than Christmas is this truth more prevalent or more easily recognizable. Christmas is first and foremost about the birth of our Lord and Savior. As Christians, this is a truth we affirm wholeheartedly in principle but too often forget in practice. We throw around the phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” as a requisite Christian platitude during the holidays. It’s a reminder, sure, but also a maxim so carelessly tossed about as to lose all meaning.
With the onslaught of holly and mistletoe, bough and bow, lights and tinsel, it’s easy to give in to distraction. In doing so, we unwittingly secularize Christmas, prioritizing familial and cultural traditions over a rightful emphasis on the incarnation of Christ.
Please don’t misunderstand. Trim your tree. Hang your stockings. Watch your corny Hallmark Christmas romcoms. Drink your eggnog, if you must. (Though I wonder if anyone really likes the stuff.) I’m not arguing we throw out all customs with those stinky leftovers. Instead, let us recognize our traditions and the effect they have on our way of thinking this Christmas. More importantly, let’s find practical ways to redirect our attention where it ought to be.
Here are a ten ways (and an essential bonus) to get your focus back on track this Christmas:
Incorporate God into Your Traditions
- Use the holiday meal to remind fellow believers of the unity you have together through the mediation of Christ, celebrating the relationship between Christ and His church. With unsaved family members, use the time to share the gospel.
- If you’re going to watch movies about Santa Claus, use it as an opportunity to remind yourself about God’s attributes. In theory, Santa is omnipresent (how else could he get all those toys delivered on time?), omniscient (listen to the lyrics of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”), and the giver of gifts. Not only is God the one who is truly omniscient (Psalm 147:5), omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23-24, Colossians 1:17), and omnipotent (Job 42:1-2), but all good gifts come from His hand.
- When giving gifts, recognize and give thanks to God, remembering that the giving of His son to die on our behalf was the greatest gift of all.
- Incorporate a reading of John 1:1-18 into the stringing of lights while you decorate the tree. It’s a beautiful reminder of who Jesus is, fully God and fully man, and that he is the true light of the world.
Create New Traditions
- Make a birthday cake as a fun way to teach your kids about the birth of Jesus.
- Instead of letters to Santa, brew hot cocoa, make cookies, and have the kids write out a prayer thanking God for the blessings of the year. Seal and save to read next Christmas.
- Make a playlist of Christmas hymns to sing together.
- Volunteer to serve your church and its members.
- Create an advent calendar of bible verses, including the great prophetic passages in the Old Testament of the Messiah to come (e.g., Isaiah 9:6, Zechariah 9:9).
- Read through the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It’ll give everyone an opportunity to remember the reason for our joy this time of year. The annual repetition is also beneficial in supplanting any faulty perceptions of the Christmas story we may have picked up from movies or images.
Go to Church
Really. The best way to remember where our focus should be at any time of year is to be in the fellowship of believers where the Word is being preached and taught faithfully. If your church has a Christmas Eve service, make it a priority to be there.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.James 1:17, NIV
Before we sign off for the holidays, let me remind you of our obligation, as Christians, to interpret secular symbols and customs through a biblical framework. Everything we do should be for God’s ultimate glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). Nothing we do, whether in daily practice or seasonal tradition, should be separate from God.