Why Traditions?

1 Corinthians 11:2 “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.”

Ornaments on our tree reminding me of special friends, of special places, of special events like “baby’s first Christmas.” Candle-lit Christmas Eve services. Eggnog coffee.  Gift opening that begins with reading Luke 2. The sights, smells, sounds and stories of Christmas are embedded in my mind as deeply as the English language. Traditions.

I recently asked my students about their Christmas traditions. Their responses ranged from eating Pillsbury cinnamon rolls Christmas morning, to father and son dressing up in Santa suits. Some spoke of extended family members gathering each year to buy gifts for needy families. Others recalled their tradition of getting new pj’s every Christmas Eve. One thing was clear. Traditions left a deposit of security and good-feeling in those who experienced them.

I know some of us can go a bit overboard with traditions, and scripture warns us not to let our traditions take the place of God (Mark 7:9), but I believe God likes them. I think that’s why he lashed out at the Pharisees who abused traditions by making them more about their legalistic system than about him. They short-circuited the noble purpose of traditions, and set them up as the end, not the means to spiritual growth, like how they committed gifts to God as an excuse not to care for parents (Mark 7:11-12) and set such strict laws for the Sabbath that they could deny mercy to a person in need (Matthew 12).

But isn’t that the way the enemy always works? He tries to subvert God’s good gifts into distractions at best, idolatry at worst. God wants us to take moments and remember where we’ve come from to help us not forget where we’re going. Traditions are a means of making that happen.

Satan will seek to infuse our Christmas traditions with anything he can to take our eyes off the goodwill associated with the birth of God’s son. Let’s not let him do that. Let’s allow God to cement our memories with the good-will and pleasantries of Christmas traditions. Let’s pass them on to our children to remind them of God’s gift.

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