When I was a kid, we moved far from my big extended family with whom we celebrated Christmas every year. From then on, it was always just the four of us. That wasn’t so bad, and we had traditions we continued, like decorating the tree after Thanksgiving, eating turkey, marking the advent calendar, and devouring the yummiest green Jell-O in the world. Growing up, I loved participating in these things, but the holidays look different for each of us.
Some of us don’t like the idea of doing something just because it’s always been done, but traditions don’t need to be rote or boring. Traditions are beliefs, customs, and actions passed down from generation to generation.
As believers, we have a unique and special opportunity to not only teach the next generation the reason for our joy, but we get to remind ourselves and each other what we’ve been given.
Jonathan Edwards once said, “The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.” Traditions we have with our families during the holidays can be the spark that brings us alive and reminds us of what really satisfies the soul. Even if we don’t all make the same cookies or eat a turkey, we can all look to traditions that ground us in the truth of God’s Word.
With the commercialization of the holidays, I’ve sometimes struggled at finding joy in this season, and sharing the traditions that I love has often felt more like tasks to get done.
It can be hard to remember why we celebrate in the midst of grocery shopping, gift buying, and driving down the road with blow-up Santas lining the way. But the best tradition is the truth of God incarnate, our Emmanuel, come to save us all.
Making him the center of the season is the key to finding joy in the midst of chilly days, too many yummy snacks shared at the office, that humbug person down the way, or the long lines of tired shoppers at the store.
Of course, maybe you’re thinking, “I already know this,” but is it what carries you through the holiday? I know I haven’t always made the effort to keep Jesus at the forefront of my mind in the hubbub of the season.
Being purposeful, making the time, and inviting others to share the season with us are what help us to focus on Christ at Christmas. It’s not enough to say Jesus is the light of the world. We need to shine it, so that’s what the Christmas season is all about!
Taking a little (or a lot of) time every day to consider who Jesus is in light of his birth, life, death, resurrection, and the promise of his coming again will only help center thoughts on the purpose for the holiday. While we celebrate God becoming man—humbling himself to experience our humanity from the beginning as a baby—we truly rejoice at Christmas for all that he has done and what he will do.
And I think that’s why I continue to love advent calendars. Marking the calendar leading up to Christmas can be a gentle, daily reminder of why (and who) we’re celebrating. For twenty-four days, opening an advent calendar, or reading a verse, or giving a small gift is a slow anticipation of the arrival of our salvation, a daily reminder that Jesus is more than a baby in a manger. He is our light and our salvation. That’s the very best our tradition offers, and it is worth celebrating.
When gifts are piled high, the smell of cider fills the air, and the bedecked tree twinkles, we can find joy in these simple things knowing the best gift has already been given, and it’s not exclusive to one person, it’s for everybody. No matter where I am or who I’m with, whether a huge extended family or my dog, tradition can be a spark for joy. What traditions do you have that help you rejoice at this time of year?
Besides an advent calendar, my family will enjoy some of our simple traditions, including my favorite green Jell-O. If you’re curious about trying something new, here’s the recipe:
6 oz. Lime Jell-O (or gelatin) package
2 cups boiling/hot water
8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 cup Miracle Whip
1 can crushed (or tidbit) pineapple (drained)
1 container Cool Whip
Directions: Dissolve Jell-O in hot water. Add softened cream cheese and allow to melt, stirring as needed. Add Miracle Whip and mix with an electric hand-mixer. Add pineapple and stir. Fold in Cool Whip. Refrigerate a minimum of three hours.
About Rachael Ritchey
*Written by Indie Author, Rachael Ritchey. To read more of her works, including her published pieces, follow her at:
Twitter: Rachael Ritchey