Traditions can be good.
Everybody is influenced by tradition! Well, at least to some form of established tradition that may have evolved (intentionally or not) in the families that we come from.
My father is British, my mother Australian, and I was born and lived in the US for the first 10 years of my life. Christmas is celebrated somewhat differently in the United Kingdom and United States compared to Australia, as I found out at my very first Aussie Christmas.
Sitting down for a hot Christmas dinner with no snow falling outside took a little getting used too. And once dinner was done it was either the Queen’s message or backyard cricket – that would never have happened in New Jersey! (In the States, the Queen has no authority and ‘Cricket’ is an annoying bug!)
It was not until I was about 24 years old that I realized what a special job my mother had done to establish traditions in our family that had purpose. Let me explain.
Even though Christmas felt so different to me in Australia, there were some special ‘traditions’ that my mother had established that meant that I experienced a very ‘Noakes Christmas’ regardless of which country I resided. You see, my mother had worked very hard to keep both my English and Australian families alive to me whilst we were away in the US. She wrote and then shared the correspondence. She sent gifts and bought gifts from the wider family. She sent photos and shared photos. We celebrated Christmas (and Easter) in similar ways to my wider family across the sea (even though I did not know it at the time). And so in small ways I knew who my grandparents and cousins were even though I wasn’t to meet them face to face until I was a young teenager. And in many ways I shared in some of the traditions that marked what my wider family did.
And when the occasion eventually arose for me to come to Australia or to travel to the UK I got to share in a very familiar Christmas. Different country, different climate, but very similar family celebrations. I am very thankful to my mother particularly for establishing those special bonding customs in our family.
No doubt every family has its own established traditions (be they intentional or ad-hoc). The traditions help bond tribes together.
What are your family traditions?
Spare a thought this Christmas for Mary (mother of Jesus). If she had family traditions to keep too (i.e. engagement, marriage customs, pregnancy, birth) then none of them worked out quite the way she had planned.
Breaking tradition is one of those things families tend to push-back on. Well I imagine poor Mary would have had a fair amount of push back. In fact Matthews’s gospel (1:18-23) tells us she did.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph…
Going well so far. There is a tradition. In this family the woman is pledged to be married to the man.
but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
Okay problem. This is a break in tradition. Watch for the push-back.
Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
There it is. Joseph pushes back. He does it respectably, but none-the-less determines that this is a break in tradition that doesn’t work for him.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Whoa! That has got to blow your mind. This is a dream with power. Now Joseph is involved. A tradition will be challenged, but now Joseph is in on it. If the push-back comes, he is called to stand alongside Mary as one who breaks with tradition.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
And then the reason for the break in tradition is revealed. In just a couple of verses we are powerfully told about Jesus – a son, one who will save people from their sins, the fulfillment of the prophets, to a virgin, called Immanuel, meaning God with us.
This is such big news that it is worthy of a new tradition. And in fact it created a new tradition which we know as Christmas.
I wonder what the family said? How did the friends respond? What was the push back?
Friends Christmas is upon us (just in case you hadn’t noticed!). With Christmas comes the many and varied traditions of our family and friends. Some will recognize the reason behind the tradition. Others will push-back and try and make Christmas something that it is not.
Let’s pray that this Christmas we can share our good traditions – the ones which speak of Jesus. Let’s pray that people will come to understand the significance of someone saving people from their sins. Let’s pray that our family and friends enjoy meeting Jesus, whose parents broke tradition to create the best tradition, under God. And let’s enjoy this good, now established tradition.