“I’m considering making a change to our Christmas pajama tradition.” As the words tumbled out of my mouth, the slight shake of her head informed me of her thoughts before she uttered, “Mom, don’t mess with our family traditions.” As one who delights in tradition—I’d love nothing more than to leave it alone—however, as comfortable as I may be with our family traditions, there are going to be moments when they must be messed with.
Pat and I found it necessary to mess with tradition the year his work schedule forced us to remain home for Christmas. While Pat and I allowed our thoughts to dwell on what we knew we were missing with extended family in our hometown, our kids were thrilled to be home. They didn’t miss our annual dash from house-to-house. After a much-needed attitude adjustment, Pat and I realized that joy could be found in creating new traditions if we refused to get crabby when old ones were messed with.
After years of driving, we decided it was time to spend our Christmas’ with the kids in our home. This change made it possible for us to attend the Christmas Eve services at our church. After service, we’d follow friends to their home for a night of snacks, games, and a comical Christmas letter from Santa, penned by our oldest son, to their youngest daughter. When we arrived home, Christmas pajamas were waiting under the tree for us from a sneaky elf that somehow managed to slip away from the shop without too much grief from the other elves. We’d shuffle the kids off to bed, fill stockings, and place gifts under the tree in preparation for Christmas morning, which would arrive in just a few hours. Some of our kids’ favorite memories of Christmas came because we allowed tradition to get messed with.
It can be easy to cozy up to tradition. We found ourselves faced with more transitions as our children married, grandchildren were added, and the schedules of many needed to be considered just to get the family together. Whew! It wasn’t easy, and I’ve had a few, I-don’t-like-messing-with-tradition moments. However, in the midst of my “moment,” I’ve also discovered that tradition without flexibility becomes nothing more than stringent regulations of expectations. This creates tension, and frustration during what should be a season of hope, joy, and peace. Who wants that? “Not I,” says Mother Hen.
Back in the day, the religious leaders were challenged by Jesus’ seeming lack of respect for tradition. At one point asking Him, “Why do your disciples ignore the traditions of our elders?” Jesus’ response gives me a reason to pause and check my own heart. “Why do you ignore the commandment of God because of your tradition” (Matthew 15:1-3)? Ouch. The motto of, we’ve always done it this way, can push back hard against any offender trying to mess with tradition. If tradition causes me to ignore the commandment to love others, well, it might be time to reconsider the meaning of Christmas. When that happens, I become intentional about finding my way to the grace place. Here I can remind myself we are not celebrating tradition on Christmas Day; we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.
Perhaps you find yourself struggling during a season of transition and change. I pray you are able to offer grace, and flexibility, as you weave your way through every single moment. Don’t forget the angel’s announcement was, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10). Don’t lose your joy for the sake of tradition. Merry Christmas.