Friday, December 07, 2012


Tradition

Jasper Speaks:

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Most families have some “sacred traditions”. These are things in our family history that make us unique. They are our attempt to instill memories and to pass from one generation to the next, the “emotional DNA” of who we are. Traditions can have a spiritual impact as well.

In my home growing up, as in most, Christmas brought with it great excitement.  We struggled financially quite a bit but Christmas was something my mother always tried to make special. We may not have had the latest toys or gadgets but the time of opening presents was no less exhilarating for us.  One of our traditions was that we would have our family meal and celebration on Christmas Eve. This was the time that we all gathered for good food, good conversation and a time of appreciation for one another.

By ten o’clock on Christmas Eve, we children had to be in bed. We would lay awake anxiously awaiting “Santa’s arrival”. It seemed he chose our house to begin his journey  every year, at about 12:15 AM or so, my mother or father would knock on our doors to wake us up declaring that St. Nick had been by and left us this year’s treasures. We would rush to the living room to see our brightly lit tree, now surrounded by beautifully wrapped presents, many with my name on them.

However, my mother was a stickler for some things. We could not rush to the presents and tear off paper immediately. Each year we would sit together and reflect on the true reason for our celebration. We would sing Christmas carols that reminded us that the God of the universe had come to be one of us. Then after singing several of our favorites, my father opened his Bible and read to us from Luke 2. We would listen as Scripture told of the census that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and the angels proclaiming the “good news of great joy”. He would end the story with the powerful verse that tells us that Mary took all of the things that happened and pondered them in her heart.  As a child, there were certainly nights that the wait seemed long and excruciating. I had heard all of this before and there were presents right next to me with my name on them. They needed opening. The patience of a ten year old can only be tested so far after all.

As an adult, I have a completely different take on those moments. You see, like Mary, I have begun to ponder those nights in my heart. I return to them now and see that what was happening was a life lesson, reiterated each year. My parents knew that our meager gifts would not last. They understood that the true meaning of Christmas would endure well beyond us all. The songs we sang were not just a prelude to the evening but a time of worship that served as a reminder of the awesome truth of God becoming Emmanuel. That story that Dad read was very different from Santa and the other stories of the season. It is real. The joy of the angels should infect us every time we think of the mighty creator becoming a babe in a manger.

Now I am the dad. I open up God’s Word and read from that ancient passage in Luke 2 on Christmas. You see, I learned from faithful parents that traditions are wonderful things but there is something more important than our memories. The text of Luke 2 lives in my heart. I recall it with ease. In those anxious moments every year, my parents were training me up in the way I should go. There were some bumpy roads along the way but God’s promise in Proverbs has been fulfilled. I have not departed from it. I pray that the traditions we are establishing as a family today, lead my son to stay devoted all his days to the God who became man so that we could live forever. 

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