As I have been thinking about which favorite Christmas memory to share with you, I noticed that all the memories that kept popping up as contenders were family traditions.
Growing up, Christmas Eve was almost as fun as Christmas day. My mom would always put together this delicious deli tray with fancy cheeses and meats for dinner. My dad would read us the Christmas story and then we would watch A Muppets Christmas Carol. After the movie, we would decorate gingerbread cookies and then our decorated gingies would star in several short plays. Oh what fun we had with those silly cookies!!
Our parents would not let us wake them up until 6 am, so my sister and I would sneak upstairs at 4:30 in the morning to look in our stockings. We had fun trying not to make any noise as we rattled presents and tried to decide who had gotten the most stuff. Then at 5 am A Smurfs Christmas would come on and we would watch it knowing that when it was over we could wake up our parents.
The first Christmas after we got married, Glen and I lived in an upstairs 600 square foot apartment. Since it was a huge tradition in my house to pick out a live Christmas tree, I insisted we had to have one too. I picked out a monstrous tree and the entire apartment complex come out on the balcony to watch poor Glen lug it up the stairs. (May I just add I felt so loved watching my man carry up that tree with needles flying everywhere because he knew how much it meant to me.)
You know what some of my worst Christmas memories are? They too are based on traditions…traditions gone wrong. Traditions can sometimes set us up for disappointment when something unexpected happens or when we try and keep up with what our friends are doing. It can feel like we are lacking in the whole tradition department after we read a friend’s status on Facebook where they have sculpted the North Pole out of some branches they found in their backyard and are pulling out a rack of lamb from the oven for dinner.
About twelve years ago, I started the tradition of hosting a family Christmas party. I would do a fancy tablescape and cook a spectacular meal. I would often be tired and exhausted by the time the family actually arrived. I wanted them to recognize all the hard-work and effort I had put into making the party special. If they didn’t notice or mention anything about the decor or do back-flips over the meal, I would get so hurt and disappointed. Even though the party didn’t always gone as I had planned, the point was we were all together. I missed out on the joy of the tradition of just being with one another because all I could focus on was all the effort I had put into the party.
There is a chick in the Bible who got all wrapped up in trying to be the perfect hostess too. Remember Martha and her sister Mary? Jesus pays these ladies a visit and Martha immediately goes into “Martha Stewart” mode. She is trying to live up to the tradition of entertaining an important guest. Ironically as she was looking for her fancy platter and throwing in a batch of chocolate chip cookies, she wasn’t getting to enjoy the company of her Guest.
Her sister Mary was the one listening to Jesus’ stories and quite honestly Martha got a little ticked off. She whines to Jesus, “Lord do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:40)
Jesus tells her that she is worried and troubled about the wrong things. Jesus didn’t care that the house wasn’t perfect or that the meal wasn’t on the table. (Can I get an Amen?!?) Jesus lovingly points out to Martha that Mary is the one that has chosen the right tradition. The tradition of making time to learn and fellowship at His feet.
The holiday season is upon us. As we send kids to school with holiday goodies, attend the various parties, decorate our houses, bake umpteen dozen cookies, and enjoy all of our family traditions, let’s choose not to get lost in them. Let’s make time to sit at His feet and remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
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