Traditions that Matter
by Michelle Cox
My youngest son, Jason, was the Christmas snoop at our house when he was a little boy. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, his hunt for gifts was relentless. He searched through closets and cabinets, under furniture, inside the car and all around the basement. In fact, he was so good at it he probably could have inventoried our entire house! Needless to say, it was a challenge to keep him from finding them.
The year he requested an electronic video game system, I knew he’d be extra vigilant in his pursuit. And in a moment of sheer brilliance, I knew exactly where I’d put it. On Christmas morning, Jason asked, “Where did you hide this? I looked everywhere!”
With a bright smile, I replied, “Under your bed.” He was flabbergasted. He’d been sleeping right above the present the entire time. Yes, that was the year I outwitted our Christmas snoop. It’s one of my favorite holiday memories—along with a gazillion others.
Our sons are grown and have their own families now, but those memories are extra precious. I can close my eyes and replay the snapshots in my heart: Their sweet little faces as they placed ornaments on the tree, and their clothes covered in flour from baking lopsided sugar cookies together. I can see a tiny little boy using a present for a pillow after he fell asleep under the Christmas tree. I see the coupons the boys made for “five-minute back rubs” and then tucked them into my stocking. I can still feel their excitement as they handed me the gifts they’d bought for their dad and me. Such cherished times.
Now we get a second chance to experience this all over again with our grandchildren and see Christmas through the eyes of a child. We get to listen to their squeals of excitement as they tear into gifts and get lost in a mountain of wrapping paper. We get to carry on the tradition of cookie-making as our kitchen island is surrounded by six adorable, flour-covered grandbabies. These are the moments to remember.
Christmas truly is one of the most special times of the year. It’s a season filled with family, friends, food, fun and faith. It’s a time for making memories and celebrating love—the love of family, friends and more importantly—the amazing love God wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.
I love everything about Christmas. I love the decorating, the shopping for presents and wrapping them, the baking, the parties and the festive meals, but I’ve found that in the midst of the busyness, it’s sometimes easy to lose track of what really matters. If we’re not careful, we entirely miss out on the “Christ” of Christmas and the moments to reflect on what Christmas is all about. We miss the opportunities to worship and praise Him and plant spiritual traditions in the lives of our children and grandchildren.
Years from now, I want our sons and grandchildren to look back on their Christmas memories and see that while we had fun together as a family, we also enjoyed traditions that honored Jesus.
Maybe some of our traditions will be helpful to you and your family. Here are some of the activities we do each year:
We invite people who will be alone on Christmas to share our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. What better time to teach compassion to our children and extend God’s love to others?
At the end of our Christmas meal, we enjoy a birthday cake in honor of Jesus. The kids blow out the candles, and we all sing “Happy Birthday” to Him.
Before we open gifts, we place our Nativity set on the floor. The children choose a couple of figurines and then gather around the stable. We read the Christmas story from Luke 2:1–16, and as we come to the part for the shepherds, angels, Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, the little ones put the respective figurines into place.
We close by praying together as a family—from youngest to oldest, thanking God for each other, for His blessings throughout the year, for His grace and faithfulness through the difficult moments, and for His oh-so-special gift who arrived one Christmas long ago. That’s one of the sweetest moments of Christmas to me, as I look around and see my family on their knees and hear those sincere prayers from the little ones.
Since God’s love doesn’t end on Christmas Day, we hold on to all the Christmas cards we received that year. Then we choose one card each week and pray for the folks who sent it to us. We send them a note letting them know it’s their week, and we ask for any special prayer requests they may have. We’ve found it blesses both them and us.
What traditions are you adding to your Christmas this year? Trust me when I say these moments will be your most precious memories someday—especially the ones where you and your family celebrate Jesus each year.
Michelle Cox is co-author with Brian Bird (Executive Producer and Co-Creator of Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart television series) of When God Calls the Heart at Christmas (a 25-day devotional with God-moments from Christmas episodes of When Calls the Heart, holiday recipes, heartwarming stories and traditions) and the When God Calls the Heart at Christmas Keepsake Journal. For more information, visit WhenGodCallstheHeart.com.
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