I was reminded this morning that when we rely on the nostalgia of traditions to make our Christmas season joyous or to bring us peace, we will always be disappointed. Traditions do not satisfy unless they point us to Jesus. Why do we insist on following traditions? Sometimes it’s just easier because it’s what we’ve always done, and we don’t have to come up with something new. Sometimes they remind us of the “good old days,” even though if we stop to think for a minute, those days were not always good. Traditions are something that we sometimes cling to because we think they are good in and of themselves. This is what the world does. They forget the reasons behind the traditions, and try to keep just the tradition itself. Romans 12:2 reminds us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Why are you keeping some of the traditions you have been keeping? If the tradition was supposed to point you to Jesus, did you forget about Him in the midst of it?
Our family has a wonderful advent calendar that has 24 miniature story books the girls would read and then hang on the Christmas tree. Each book has a different part of the Christmas story. The prophecy, the journey that Mary and Joseph took, and different characters in the story. After our girls had gotten older, the reading became just tradition, then it became a burden, and then an annoyance as we forgot or were rushed or we didn’t feel like doing it. We had completely forgotten the purpose of it all. In the center of the calendar is a larger book labeled “Baby Jesus.” We completely forgot this was the goal. The goal of our Christmas should revolve around Jesus. He’s the only reason we can celebrate. If you have children, you know it is easier to share the wonder of Christmas with them when they are younger. As they get older and busier with their own things, it can be harder to slow down and find peace to remember that Jesus is the Gift we all have been given.
This last Sunday was the second Sunday in Advent, and Pastor Chad spoke about peace and the Hebrew word shalom. As we celebrate Christmas, we remember that Jesus brought peace to the world, not an absence of war or conflict, but the presence of something better. Shalom refers to wholeness, completeness, and tranquility. If you Google the definition of shalom, you can see many beautiful references of what the word meant in the Biblical context, Old and New Testament. (In fact, I am resisting going off onto the rabbit trail of the depth of this word and how it is used. If you want to read more, I recommend this webpage https://firmisrael.org/learn/the-meaning-of-shalom/)
When we are in the midst of inner conflict and turmoil, God offers us peace. Not peace that removes the conflict or troubles that come with life on earth, but peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and offers comfort and completeness in the midst of our situations, no matter how messy they are. That peace does not come unless we recognize the God Who offers it. Then all we have to do is take the gift. When we cry out for help in our despair, God wraps His arms around us and makes us whole. When we focus on the Messiah Who has come, we are complete. We can have peace. I truly wish you all shalom this Christmas.