Breaking Christmas Traditions

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November 30, 2021

Today is December 1, which means you (or your calendar app of choice) flipped to the new month. And I can only imagine what awaited you.

🧶 3rd — Ugly Christmas Sweaters at the Smith’s
🍬 4th — Gingerbread houses with the kids
🍪 5th — Grandma’s for cookie decorating
🦓 10th — Wild Lights at the zoo
⛸ 11th — Ice skating in Campus Martius
🎄 12th — Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village
❄️ 16th — Work holiday party
🎅 17th — Photos with mall Santa
⛄️ 18th — Holiday Tour at Meadow Brook Hall
🎨 19th — Noel Night at the DIA
🍗 24th — Host family dinner
🍽 25th — Breakfast at Gammy’s, lunch at Aunt Michelle’s, dinner at Mom’s

Feel familiar?

Can you even breathe right now?

I’m about to say something that may just knock your candy cane-striped socks right off. Christmas is not about any of this stuff. Because it’s not about you. It also happens to not be about your mom. Or your grandma.

Christmas is, in fact, about the Christ. Let’s give that a moment to sink in. Take a breath. And when you’re ready, ask yourself my next question: If you really believed Christmas is about Jesus Christ, what would you do differently?

Here’s another way to look at it:

If Jesus was you, what would He do this Christmas season?

Don’t miss this now. I didn’t ask, “If Jesus was alive today, what would He do this Christmas season?” Instead, I’m asking you to question what Jesus would do if He was you. If Jesus had the resources at your disposal (time, money, skills, etc.), the people in your life, and so on, what would He do?

And how far off is it from what you’re doing this December?

Photo by Elena Kloppenburg on Unsplash

You see, when the fact that Christmas is about the Christ makes its way from your head to your heart, stuff changes. We go from people whose Decembers burst with traditions that are all about ourselves (activities and gifts only for our families and us) to those that bless others. Because, according to Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, that’s the Jesus thing to do:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. —  Philippians 2:3–5

This December, I’m inviting you to take a look at the month ahead of you through the lens of that calendar-quaking question: If Jesus was you, what would He do this Christmas season? As you do, figure out which of these four options you think Christ would choose for each tradition you’ve got on the books:

Keep It

If the tradition is God-honoring and brings Christ-centered joy to you and others, why say goodbye? It’s likely there are some traditions on your calendar that deserve to stay. Keep them!

Break It

Before I talk about which traditions to break, let’s pause for a moment to clarify that Christmas is a celebration of the Christ who came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10), so what I’m not saying is to cut out everything that brings you joy this December. What I am saying is to reconsider what true joy — what life abundantly — actually looks like.

Reducing the amount of time, money, and other resources you spend on yourself this Christmas season will free you up to be a blessing to others. So, ask yourself whether you have any traditions that are particularly self-centered, any that have become more important to you than Jesus is, or even some that encourage you to do things that aren’t honoring to Him.

Anything jumping out at you? That’s a tradition worth breaking.

Shake It

Here’s where things get interesting. For those traditions you think you might keep or break, there just might be a third option. Shake it up!

Want to keep hosting Christmas Eve dinner for your family? Fantastic. I can easily see Jesus honoring Mom and Dad by serving them a meal in celebration of God’s plan for our redemption. But why stop there? I can’t help but picture Jesus inviting people who aren’t part of the biological family — people who perhaps don’t have a family of their own to celebrate with. Can you see it? Maybe He’d invite the recluse next door, that family from your kid’s school, or the barista who hands you your peppermint mocha on the daily. (For a glimpse into the heart of Jesus in this, check out Luke 5:27–31.)

This December, get creative on how you can shake up your traditions, so they look and feel more like Jesus. Something’s telling me they’ll bring you even more joy than before.

Make It

The best part about breaking old traditions is space for new ones!

Have fun with this. Pray and talk with your friends, spouse, Life Group, and family about new traditions Jesus would make if He was you. What would He do to show His love to your neighbors? Your coworkers? How would He serve your church family? Your community? Take those resources we talked about earlier (time, money, skills, etc.) and do with them what Jesus would if He was you.

Remember, friend, Christmas is not about you. It’s about the birth of a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). And more people are open to hearing and talking about Him at this time of year than any other. So, don’t miss what really matters in the scramble to satisfy yourself and your own family.

Instead, Jesus-ify your calendar by asking: keep, break, shake, or make?