Tradition is a good thing, but my question is: Do traditions keep us from being flexible? Everyone experiences new seasons, changes in their lives, and within that new season is an opportunity to create new traditions.
I love some traditions that we practice as a family at Christmas time. I love the Christmas decorations, Christmas trees, Secret Santa’s and Christmas music — all of it! Traditions are good, but sometimes we have to be flexible and be willing to make room for new ones. Even a tradition within a tradition, must sometimes be changed, or tweaked a little. (I feel like I just got trapped in the movie “Inception.”)
When my children were younger, we started the tradition of Secret Santa’s within our family. Most people are familiar with Secret Santa’s at work, but we did this with our children. Just before Thanksgiving, we would put each of our names in a bowl and draw out the name of the person we had for Secret Santa that year. We put a limit of $10 on the gift. It was not about the amount of the gift, but rather that the children learned to give to others. We were trying to break off selfishness and instill the heart of giving in them. We also wanted to teach the importance of working so that they would not have the expectation that everything would be given to them.
They were not old enough to have jobs, so we gave them age appropriate chores so they could earn the money to purchase their Secret Santa gift. There was so much excitement as they would think about what they were going to do for the person they picked. They tried to be so secretive! It was enjoyable to watch. So on Christmas Eve, we would exchange our Secret Santa gifts, each person trying to guess who had their names.
As I said, this story is when they were younger. Last year, all five kids left our home following their dreams. It was the first year in many that we did not exchange Secret Santa gifts; yet in the right season, I believe, we will do it again.
Sometimes you have to go without to truly appreciate the simple pleasure of traditions that you have held.
As I thought about breaking with tradition, I was reminded of Mary. In the Jewish culture, traditionally, when a person was chosen by God for a specific position, they were anointed with oil. Typically, the person being anointed would have oil poured over their head. When Mary anointed Jesus, she first poured the oil on His head, and then poured it on His feet. Mary did something untraditional. She changed the tradition in that very moment. I believe she tweaked the anointing tradition because it was not enough for her expression of love in that moment. To wash someone’s feet was to humble yourself before that person. Mary washed His feet with her tears and wiped them clean with her hair. Then she anointed his feet with extravagantly costly oil, and then she wiped it with her hair. Her love for Jesus was greater than the traditions of men. Jesus was so moved by her demonstration of love that He told everyone present that every time the gospel was preached, what Mary had done would be told as a memorial to her.
This year, all of our children are home for Christmas. Spending Christmas with them is a far greater gift than exchanging Secret Santa gifts.
As you move into the week before Christmas, ask yourself what traditions are important, which ones you can lay down and which ones you may need to tweak. Be flexible this Christmas! Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you; and as you do, receive His joy and peace in your life.
May God bless you, your family and friends this Christmas!
Luke 7:36-38 (NKJ V)
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.
Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-49, John 12:1-8