Is God glorified by your Christmas traditions? Join AMBrewster as he teaches Christian parents about God’s love for traditions, how to discover if your traditions please the Lord, and what to do if they don’t.
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Listen to the following episodes on Apple podcasts by clicking the titles.
“Your Family Needs to Go to Church” (episode 175)
“Are There Failure Philosophies in Your Home?” (episode 61)
"Make Your Family’s Christmas More” (episode 15)
“What to Do with Santa Claus" (episode 112)
“Kids and Movies: Parenting Your Kids to Success” (episode 14)
“A Parent’s 5 Jobs” (episode 184)
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Today’s episode is simple in nature, but I believe it’s also profound.
The key to unlocking the beauty of today’s discussion will be found in our ability to rethink our motivation for doing what we do.
But before we jump in, please consider pausing this episode to leave a star-rating and/or review. The star rating is super easy to leave, and it only takes a minute or two to leave a review.
When you leave a review, it helps connect us with new families because your review says a lot more about this show than anything I could say about it.
For example, Ryan and Kim started listening to the podcast recently, and Kim left us a Recommendation on Facebook. She said, “This might be the most biblically-based parenting podcast in existence. [Their] wisdom is clearly borne of in-depth study of God’s Word. [They] speak honestly about common parenting issues and what’s really behind them, yet do so with gentleness and humility. Even if you’re not a parent, you can glean much from this podcast. It’s well worth a listen!”
You see, Kim is a mom of three teenagers, and she has a degree from a Bible college! Having her say those things about TLP is deeply humbling and gracious and sweet and encouraging.
I love sharing reviews on the show and with TeamTLP, but your reviews and recommendations have so much more impact on the new families who God directs to us.
So, thank you for what you will do!
And, lastly, Ryan and Kim not only reviewed us, they recently became Patrons of the show! That means they went over to our patreon page, learned about our mission and goals, and decided to support the ministry.
You too can learn about the many ways to be a blessing to Truth.Love.Parent. by clicking on the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description of this and every episode.
Thank you Ryan and Kim for your love, your gracious words, and your faithful giving.
Okay, let’s figure out which of our Christmas Traditions are worth keeping and why we should keep them.
We’re going to approach this subject from three directions:
1. Let’s establish why traditions should be important to Christians.
Merriam-Webster defines “tradition” as “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.” The idea is that the thoughts, actions, and/or behaviors are established and therefore repeated and the people who are participating in them are informed.
And the Bible has a lot to say about traditions, both good ones and bad ones.
The bad ones are generally identified with a modifier. For example, Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Mark 7:8 refers to “the tradition of men,” Matthew 15:3 and 6 speak about “your tradition;” emphasizing that they were not God’s.
And — speaking of God’s traditions — we have passages like II Thessalonians 2:15 which says, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”
And I Corinthians 11:1-2 tells us, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”
These verses imply that the traditions Paul delivered to the Corinthians came from Christ Himself.
We also see that all throughout the Old and New Testaments that God is establishing traditions for His people to keep. Whether it was the sacrificial system or the Lord’s Supper, the use of memorials or habitual assembling with the body of Christ, our God is a God of symbol, memorial, and tradition because we need the repetition.
And speaking of assembling as the church, I encourage you to listen to the “Your Family Needs to Go to Church” series with your kids. It starts in episode 175, and you can click the link below to be taken to that series at the end of this episode.
And all of these traditions are important because — for one — humans are forgetful. We need the constant reminders.
But I believe there will be many traditions in eternity even when we have ceased being forgetful because if something has value to God, then it makes perfect sense that it would be worth repeating. Are we only going to sing praises to God for the first million years and then never do it again?
No. Anything of value is worth repeating.
So, we can answer the first question with a resounding, “Yes!” Traditions can be very important and Christ-honoring.
However, we can also answer the question, “Do traditions in general have any value” with a definitive, “No!” as well.
Some traditions are very harmful.
So, what’s the difference?
Well, as with everything else in life, it boils down to God’s command and our motivation.
If whatever the tradition is contradicts God’s will or attacks His character, then the tradition is worthless.
All Failure Philosophies, human traditions, and any thought, action, feeling, or word that grows out of unbelief is a sin.
By the way, you can learn more about Failure Philosophies in episode 61. It’s called, “Are There Failure Philosophies in Your Home?" The easy answer is “Yes,” and that show should help you identify them.
Bad traditions won’t help your family; they will destroy it from the inside out. This is why we have to ask the third question about how we can know if our family traditions are valuable.
But we’ll get there shortly.
2. Our second question is “What makes Christmas traditions unique?”
If you’re a millennial hipster, then you’re probably not interested in doing anything mainstream. And since everyone seems to have some kind of Christmas tradition, you almost feel like you have to avoid the whole thing.
Seriously, Christmas traditions are great, but I’m going to argue that they’re not necessarily better or worse than any other traditions.
We run a very real danger of discounting significant biblical realities when we promote certain traditions over others.
For example, if you live in the typical American home, then there’s a very real likelihood that Christmas is a big deal in your house, but when it comes to Easter, the traditions either don’t exist or aren’t as significant to the family.
And if you think that’s not true in your home, allow me to ask this? Does your family’s Easter celebration start a month before the day? Are you playing Easter music in the house all week? Do you decorate your home for Easter with the same gusto?
Perhaps there are some people out there like that, but most aren’t, and that illustrates my point.
Is the incarnation of Christ a big deal? Definitely. We’re going to be talking about the overall importance of it on our next two episodes, but it’s absolutely not more important than the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
But when we make a big deal out of Christmas and downplay Easter, we run the very real risk of causing our children to think that what the Easter traditions were designed to celebrate aren’t as important as the Christmas realities.
And this, I think, has the scent of Satan on it. If the Devil can keep us focused on the Baby in the manger, he can distract us from the Savior on the cross and the soon-returning sovereign King.
Our very first Christmas episode, number 15, was all about this. It’s called "Make Your Family’s Christmas More.” I encourage you to check it out.
May we never do anything to give our children the wrong impressions, and — as I said — we’ll be discussing that in far more detail on our next two episodes.
So, what makes Christmas traditions unique? I believe the only thing that should differentiate our Christmas traditions is the content. Christmas was designed to celebrate the incarnation of Christ — His coming to earth.
Obviously, the time of year will cause our traditions to differ from those of Thanksgiving or Easter or Creation Day, but I think that’s where the differences should probably stop.
If we celebrate more or longer or put a heavier weight on Christmas than we do other traditions, we really need to ask ourselves “Why?” And we need to be honest enough to grapple with the answer.
Do we really spend time with family and travel and decorate trees and put up lights and give gifts and listen to “Run-Run-Rudolph” and have a “Holly Jolly Christmas” because we’re celebrating the hypostatic union and incarnation of the Messiah?
Generally speaking, I think not.
Does that make the traditions bad? I don’t think so, but if we’re not careful to communicate the reason behind the tradition, we run the very real risk of sending the wrong message.
This goes back to the definition of tradition, and it speaks to the reality that many people do things and they have no idea why.
A story was told by a pastor of mine about a woman who always cut the ends off her ham before cooking it. One day her daughter asked her why she cut the ends of the ham off. They were just as edible and tasty. Well, the mother didn't know. So, she asked her mother, and her mother didn’t know either. So, they asked Great Grandma, and they learned that Great Grandma has a small kitchen with a small oven and small pans, and she always had to cut the ends off the ham to get it to fit in the pan.
Somehow, the tradition stuck, and we have to wonder how many hams were unnecessarily cut because no one knew why they were doing what they were doing.
3. So, let’s ask our third and final question for the day: “How do we know if our Christmas traditions are valuable?”
First, there are two types of value. Some traditions will be valuable because they relate directly back to God and His Word. Others will be valuable in that they are special to the family and promote love and quality relationships.
Both are wonderful even if the second doesn’t always directly tie to the first.
But here’s my caution . . . communicate to your kids why you do what you do. If you choose to enjoy the fictional personage of the magical Santa Claus, please communicate that to your children so they don’t allow the fairy-tale to steal from the significance of the season.
In episode 112, we did a show called “What to Do with Santa Claus.” Hopefully that episode will be a good follow-up.
And this is where we have to acknowledge that some traditions are simply, downright bad.
Any tradition that presents a “truth” that runs counter to the Scriptures is bad. Any philosophy that presents the idea that you can be successful and victorious without a Godward focus in your life is lying to our families.
Is there anything wrong with watching a movie about Santa Claus? Not necessarily, but your kids have to be shown what is true and what is a lie.
Please investigate episode 14, “Kids and Movies: Parenting Your Kids to Success” for more about how this can be done.
Also, remember that our children need us to help them interpret life. That’s one of the 5 jobs all parents have. We talked about “A Parent’s 5 Jobs” starting in episode 184.
Sometimes it’s the teaching and interpretation steps that can take what would otherwise be a bad tradition done for the wrong reasons and makes it into a valuable, informed tradition that is designed to meet a specific need. This keeps Santa Claus from upstaging God.
So . . .
1. The reason for the tradition is biblical. This means it was created by God, it’s based off biblical principles, or it indirectly glorifies God by promoting that in which He delights. As an example: we traditionally visit family over Christmas. We don’t do this because it was commanded. Some people like to say it mirrors Joseph and Mary’s travels, but then — if that’s important — you should never stay home over Christmas. Which means that everyone has to travel to a third location that is not anyone’s homes. So, why do we do it — because our families have vacation time, because we love our family, and because it glorifies God to fellowship with and serve one another. I would argue that traveling to spend time with family for those reasons glorifies God.
2. The reasons for the tradition is communicated. If I leave my children to surmise why we pretend that Santa Claus is real (and — by the way — we don’t), or figure out why we have a Christmas tree or give gifts or visit family, then they’re probably going to come to the wrong conclusions.
We need to educate and interpret these events for our kids so they can appreciate the significance of the tradition.
Growing up we would spend Christmas Eve with our large Polish extended family, and then go our separate ways for Christmas morning. But every now and then certain of the siblings and their kids would decide to spend the night at the other’s house and celebrate Christmas morning together.
Since the kids’ beds were usually given to the aunts and uncles, being the oldest male cousin, it somehow happened the space under the dining room table became my domain. And no matter where we spent the night that Christmas Eve, I would sleep there.
You know what? More than anything that tradition had nothing to do with God or preferring others above myself. It was really a prestigious thing in my own mind. Was it fun? Did the other cousins find joy in the silliness of our territorial sleeping arrangements? Maybe. Unless of course you were the cousin who was relegated to sleeping in the bathtub.
So, what happened was that tradition eventually gave way. After an unloving alteration, my mom encouraged me to let someone else sleep there in order to serve them and glorify God. And I think we were all better-off for it.
Please share this episode and download our free notes from Taking Back the Family.
And join us next time as we discuss part one of “Preparing the Way for Jesus in Your Home This Christmas.”
You guys are amazing. Thank you for spending this time with us twice a week. We love you, and we pray that your every Christmas tradition causes everyone in your life to think better of God.
To that end, I’ll see you next time.
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