When I was a little girl on Christmas Eve we would get milk and cookies out and leave them on the kitchen table. My parents would then load us up into our brown Ford LTD and we would go to grandmaís house. For some unknown reason my mom would always be the last one out of the house. As you probably have predicted when we returned home the cookies had disappeared, the milk was gone and there would be presents under the tree - a Christmas tradition.
For my husbandís family his Christmas traditions looked much different. His dad would lead Christmas Eve services at church. Then the family would gather together for the reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2 followed by the reading of the childrenís storybook The City That Forgot about Christmas. In the morning grapefruit would always be served as part of the Christmas morning breakfast. Christmas traditions that are carried on in my home today Ė that is everything but the grapefruit, thankfully.
Every child has their own unique memories of Christmas and every family has their own traditions. However, as special as our traditions are at Christmas we need to ensure that our Christmas isnít just about traditions and that our Christmas never becomes routine. In school right now my students are reading the novel The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. In this book, Christmas, and even more specifically the biblical Christmas story had become routine. The narrator of the book gives the following description of the upcoming Christmas pageant, "Itís always just the Christmas story, year after year, with people shuffling around in bathrobes and bedsheets, and sharp wings.Ē In the book that is how the entire church was feeling about the story of Jesusí birth Ė it was just a story that they had already heard and seen over and over again. And perhaps if many of us were honest we may feel the same way.
Well in the book Christmas changes that year because a new family comes to church who had never heard the story of Jesusí birth. This new family, "The HerdmansĒ are made up of six children who are known for lying, stealing, swearing and even smoking cigars. However, the story of Christmas takes on great interest for them. They listen intently and ask questions at every part of the story. Words that sound so familiar in our ears were totally new in theirs. They take such a keen interest in the story that they volunteer for all the parts in the Christmas pageant. The role of Mary ends up being played by Imogene, described as the rudest, bossiest, nastiest Herdman of all. Everyone expected the pageant to be a disaster and the worst ever but it actually becomes the best. It isnít the best that year because of great acting, costumes or sets. It was the best because it was being portrayed by children who were experiencing the story for the first time. The story became real again. During the play Imogene starts to cry on stage as the story and the character of Mary takes on full meaning, the audience also tears up and to be honest every time I read that part of the story I too am also in tears.
May I challenge you this Christmas not to get stuck in tradition and routines. Take the time to read the story of Jesusí birth from the second chapter of Luke with new eyes. Donít let it be just a story that you hear year after year or just a story that you think you have heard already. Discover for yourself anew a story about more than just a baby in a manager- a story about a Saviour.