Do you have family Christmas traditions? When I was a kid, my family loved our Christmas Eve tradition. We kept first things first, which means we always ate first. Every year on Christmas Eve we had finger foods for dinner. Cheeses, sausage, crackers, M&Ms, and other delicious treats were always there to make our Christmas bellies full. We would then exchange gifts with one another from youngest to oldest. We would do this on Christmas Eve so we could all start anticipating Santa’s arrival that night and his presents would of course get priority the next day. We would do all of this while listening to our diverse collection of Christmas music from the Beach Boys to the Chipmunks. The music always filled the room with Christmas cheer. Finally we would finish the night with a Christmas movie classic. We would watch movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” or more recently “Elf” (my personal favorite). I enjoyed these Christmas traditions as a kid and I still do.
Jamie and I started a Christmas tradition this year called “Elf on the Shelf.” A book by this title comes with a little elf doll. The book explains that every night the elf goes back to the North Pole and lets Santa know what’s going on in the Custer house. When he returns he always shows up in a different place than he was before and the children are not allowed to touch him or to move him during the day. But they are encouraged to talk to him and to tell him what their dreams are for Christmas and the elf will report those wishes to Santa. The kids are enjoying finding his new location each morning. He has been a treasured guest in our home. Christmas traditions are fun and can bring great life and meaning into our families.
One of the greatest traditions we have this time of year is giving gifts to family and friends. Christmas is often called the “season of giving.” This also means that it is the “season of buying” and the “season of lots of Christmas commercials” (Sorry about the overuse of quotation marks). Everyone is trying to get us to buy things right now. They want us to find that perfect Christmas gift, whether it is diamonds, electronics, or that luxury car with an over-sized bow on top. And we know that in the midst of all this buying for others we buy for ourselves too. Come on. Admit it. These advertising gurus know what they are doing. They are paid big bucks to get you to spend big bucks.
Christmas is also the “season when Jesus is mentioned often in Christian circles.” That is the last time I will use unnecessary quotes. Christ is often thought of during this time and for good reason. I am not one of those vocal proponents of “Keep Jesus in Christmas” (I did it again), but it is only appropriate to think about the great gift that is Jesus Christ. The well-known John 3:16 says so, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” God gave his son to us. He gave him to show love and to give us eternal life. The greatest gift that we have received is one that we did not purchase for someone. It is a free gift given to us who believe by the Creator of the universe. This is a gift worth advertising. We don’t need an advertising guru to get us to see how precious a gift this is. Let’s spend the holidays giving Christmas gifts to our loved ones, but let us also remember the greatest gift given us. Jesus Christ was given for you and for me. So many of us Christians give thanks for Jesus in a special way on Christmas and there is nothing wrong with such a wonderful tradition.