Like many families, ours has long standing traditions that we have established for the Christmas season. It all begins the weekend after Thanksgiving, the decorations come out, trees go up and the outside of our home notifies passers by that a family of bon-a-fide Christmas lovers lives there. With a constant chorus of Christmas music as our backdrop, we take the kids for their annual Christmas picture, see Santa at the mall, watch a different Christmas movie or T.V "special" every night, build a gingerbread house, drive around to see the lights, watch the kids perform in various Christmas plays, programs and pageants, help the little ones wrap their gifts they bought at their school's Santa Shop, mail Christmas cards and we wrap it up on Christmas eve by composing a poem or song about our family's year before putting out the cookies, milk and reindeer food.
This year my wife and I got a special treat. For some reason our timing was off; the trees did not go up on time and the rain delayed decorating outside. We decided to take our own holiday picture like we did when the kids were little, we skipped the mall Santa not wanting to go through the "production" that that simple joy has become and we simply had more obligations than past years with dance, Scouts, basketball and a litany of other things that pop up.
Then as only a 15 year old girl can do, our eldest asked, "What? So were not celebrating Christmas this year?" "We didn't get our picture taken, we haven't seen Santa, we don't have the downstairs tree up, the outside looks pathetic, you haven't taken me shopping so I can get gifts for the family, I guess it's not important."
It would have been easy for me to say, "She doesn't get it." "Doesn't get what we are up against, doesn't get how busy we are, doesn't get how tired we are." But in reality, it was me who did not get it. Here was a 15 year old girl, asking why we are not observing our Christmas traditions. I wouldn't think she would care about sitting for a picture with her brothers and sister "who annoy her", much less going to see Santa. Oh how wrong I was. It's not the act that she cares about, it is the fact that this is what we do as a family, it is our tradition and that means everything to her.
Then it hit me, she has only done these things once a year for 14 years. It only took a few times of doing these things to engrain beliefs that are important to her, only 14 times! I am encouraged that if she has only seen and done something for such a short period of time then maybe the values we hold dear will have the same impact when lived out 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
During Jesus' earthly ministry, he showed over and over the error in blindly following religious traditions. The tradition or act itself means nothing and often takes us away from the intended purpose. But like our daughter showed, it's our attitude, our heart and our desire to live the real meaning of what the tradition represents that's important.
Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas Season!