Happy December 1st! I can’t believe it is already here. Today I wanted to share the first devotion from my new book Total Christmas Makeover to help us remember why we will spend this month – shopping, baking, decorating, attending parties, and adding so many items to already overflowing to-do lists. Our heart is to remember Christ. God stepped out of eternity and into time so that He might redeem us. He freed us through the sacrifice of His Son. Enjoy day one of 31 devotions to celebrate with purpose. I hope you’ll find the book a helpful tool in keeping Christ at the center of your Christmas this year and for years to come!
“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast. On the first day of the festival, remove every trace of yeast from your homes. Anyone who eats bread made with yeast during the seven days of the festival will be cut off from the community of Israel. On the first day of the festival and again on the seventh day, all the people must observe an official day for holy assembly. No work of any kind may be done on these days except in the preparation of food.” Exodus 12:14-16
When I got married, my husband and I found that our Christmas rituals had some similarities but also quite a few distinctions. My family got together with lots of people overtaking a home with a chaotic opening of gifts going on all over the room. We had different types of food each year like shrimp, pizza, turkey, or ham as main dishes. With so many people gathering, we ate all over the house. Sometimes things changed in the routine from year to year with different foods, paper plates, and varied formats. One year we might read the Christmas story as a family, and other times we all attended a church service together. I can’t recall it always looking the same. For my husband, Christmas included a perfectly set table, dim lights, and a more formal meal with traditional dishes served each year. Chaos would not have described anything that went on in his home during celebrations. Things were orderly and people were sentimental about customs being observed each year.
When it comes to our own Christmas rituals, the important thing isn’t the mode of expression as much as the heart behind it all. Whether your family celebrates formally with firm traditions or more chaotically with varied ways to remember Christ’s birth, the key is to remember the why in our observances. Why do we decorate, shop, bake, throw parties, and gather as families during the holidays? We break with our normal routine and stop to remember Christ.
He left eternity in heaven and stepped into time. He put on flesh and came humbly to earth as a baby. All of this was for us. He came to restore the relationship with God that sin had marred. Jesus came to teach us about our Father – His love, His grace, His holiness, and then to pay the ultimate price to bridge the gap sin created between us. This is why we celebrate. When the rituals lose their original intent of helping us remember Christ, we need to rediscover their meaning.
Perhaps some holiday rituals need to be revived or pursued more wholeheartedly while others we should hold loosely and possibly replace with new ideas. While many of our Christmas traditions are fun and don’t need to be hyper-spiritual, we don’t want to miss the true message of Christmas in the commercialized hoopla.
A Christmas Makeover doesn’t mean throwing out all our traditions and habits over the holiday season and exchanging them for new ones. However it might mean:
- Prioritizing the traditions that point us to Christ’s birth
- Rediscovering the intent behind the practices we treasure
- Incorporating some new rituals that will help us share God’s message of love with those around us
Rituals have always been one of the key markers of biblical celebration. When the Israelites left Egypt, God instructed them to hold an annual remembrance and honor the traditions of sacrifice, rest, and preparing special foods that held meaning for them. They were to eat bread without yeast to recall the time when they had to leave in such a hurry there was no time for the bread to rise. The Israelites ate bitter herbs to remember their time of slavery and roasted lamb to commemorate the night the death angel passed over their homes because of the blood of an animal over their doorpost.
God ordained special holy days from generation to generation so His people would not forget His mighty acts. Most Gentile Christians don’t celebrate Passover because Christ came as a fulfillment to the foreshadowing of Passover. He shed His own blood as a covering for our sin so that we would not be separated from God. The Gospel of John records, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29)
Jesus is our Passover lamb. At Christmas we celebrate His birth while at Easter we remember His death and resurrection. Our holiday rituals are a time to reflect upon Him. He was born to die so that we could have a restored relationship with God through His blood. Our Christmas traditions play a part in our remembrance of Him in the midst of our busy schedules, demanding jobs, health challenges, and relational conflicts. We change our routine to include decorations, special events, additional church gatherings, preparing special foods, gift selections, and perhaps a family devotion or special reading. All of this is not to make us stressed out or overwhelmed but to help us remember Christ. So we must carefully contemplate which activities help us focus on God and which stress us out for no good reason.
Every tradition doesn’t have to be inherently spiritual, but we must not forget the Savior whose birth we celebrate because we are so busy with candy and cookies. My husband and I found a new normal with our own family. We include both casual and formal elements in our celebration and other rituals that change over time. When our children were small we did a family devotion for each day in December with special ornaments. As our kids became teenagers that weren’t home every night, we switched to taking turns with teenager-led Christmas devotions that had to include a craft or creative activity once a week. Sometimes our rituals stay tried and true and other times they changed with age and culture. Any practice can become rote or lose its original intent so we must evaluate often to be sure our focus is on Christ so that He doesn’t become forgotten in the midst of Christmas mayhem.
Lord, help me to keep my focus on you this Christmas season. I don’t want to forget the importance of your birth. Help me to remember you often as I prepare to celebrate your coming to earth. Help me to discern which traditions I should incorporate this year that will draw my attention continually on you and teach me to let go of anything distracting me from the true meaning of Christmas. Thank you for being my Passover Lamb and taking away my sin through your blood.
Questions for Reflection
- What Christmas traditions did you experience growing up?
- Of those activities, which helped you most focus on Christ?
- Do any of your current Christmas rituals leave you uninspired or stressed out?
- What new practices might you incorporate to strengthen your relationship with Christ as you celebrate His birth?
A Practical Approach
One way many families remember that this holiday is all about Jesus is to have a birthday cake. Since children can relate to their own birthday parties, having a time to sing to Jesus and eat cake helps them remember it is truly His party! While they receive presents at Christmas, it is the birth of Christ we are truly celebrating.
You can keep up these daily readings with a copy of the Total Christmas Makeover. Click this link to order: http://amzn.to/2j5tpt0 Here is a video explaining more:
Have a blessed holiday celebrating our Savior!