As I savored a quiet moment to gaze upon the glistening waves on the lake across the street from our home, my thoughts turned to the changing of seasons. The nearby maple’s fiery orange and golden leaves reminded me of the preparations needed for the myriad of traditions our family enjoys each Holiday season. My mind quickly began to fill with lists of things to do, but an excited shout from my youngest daughter swiftly redirected my attention. “Mommy, Mommy, when do we get to go see Mr. Clint and get a candy cane?”
The reminder of this annual family tradition brought fond memories of braving snowstorms and belting out Christmas songs on our yearly trek to Northfield. Each year we endeavor to bring home a sweetly scented pine to bear the Christmas memories represented in our treasury of ornaments. Yet surprisingly, my daughter did not seem to find delight in her memories of discovering “the perfect tree” but in the wonder of seeing a friend she has found in Mr. Clint, the owner of the Wolcyn Tree lot.
As a mom, I’m not a big fan of candy, but the exception is always made when we get our Christmas tree. Mr. Clint’s countenance beams with the love of Christ in all he does. Each year, we catch glimpses of him patiently mentoring his employees and sharing hope and handfuls of candy quite generously, with our kids being no exception to receive these gifts. As I thought about it, it’s really no surprise at all that my little one’s delight is in the friend she found and not in the tradition itself.
As plans for watching Thanksgiving football games with favorite uncles slipped through our grasp this year, many canceled holiday traditions have reminded us of the uncertainty of these times we are in. Experiencing separation from loved ones and facing changes to our favorite holiday events like The Nutcracker, we are facing disappointments around every corner. As God’s children, we are not the first ones to face times such as these. These disappointments provide us with an opportunity to consider the heart behind the traditions that we have held dear all these years.
While some people’s traditions during the holidays might include baking lefse, ginger snaps or bonket with Grandma, others cherish the memory of the family’s patriarch reading the Christmas story from the book of Matthew. Yet, we all behold memories that have etched impressions in our hearts whether spiritual or culinary centered. As this year’s holidays fast approach, we are all facing feelings of uncertainty about which traditions we will be able to enjoy. As God’s children, we are not alone in facing times of uncertainty, nor are we alone in our desire to maintain the integrity of our Christian traditions, despite the limitations and circumstances we are facing.
Our Father’s faithfulness to provide for His children in times of war, famine or plague through providing for daily needs as well as creative ways to adapt traditions and to create new ones, give us a glimpse of who He is and of His desire to care for us at all times. He reminds us of His promises through hymns that have been sung in caves with little means and in castles with lavish feasts. Still, His provision of a stable for a young girl and an impending birth can give us confidence that no matter what challenge we face this holiday season, He will always be our Emmanuel, God with us. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus for He will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
As you remember how and why Jesus came, I want to encourage you to let go of traditions for “traditions sake” and to remember who God is and of your friendship with Him in preparing for each tradition. Embracing this freedom will give us the hope that we need to delight in what is most important with the ones that we love the most. Holiday traditions give us opportunities to teach our kids (and to learn for ourselves) about: God’s plan of salvation, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, historical events of the Bible and prophetic events yet to come. Anchoring our relationships in the love of the Father and the memories of His faithfulness will guide our hearts into His love and give us the hope that we need when discouragement looms.
Which holiday traditions do you celebrate? Can you imagine the creative ideas God has for you to take part in as you seek to honor Him in these traditions? What are some ways that you have seen God’s faithfulness in your life or of your family members?
As we look towards Advent, and our varied holiday traditions, let’s encourage one another to remember God’s faithfulness through the ages and to acknowledge His desire to be the focus of the traditions that we hold most dear. He is Emmanuel, God with us, and He longs for fellowship with you this holiday season as you prepare your heart for His return. As it says in 1 Peter 1:6-9: “My prayer is that we may be a people who rejoice through trials as we focus our hearts on loving Him now, while we know the fellowship of joy inexpressible as we await His glorious return to restore all things and men unto Himself.”