My favorite childhood tradition of all time took place on Christmas Eve.  My family would attend Christmas Eve service then come home to enjoy appetizers, my mom’s legendary cutout cookies and open one gift together. Later, we would all fall asleep in the living room watching It’s a Wonderful Life.  What I love most about the movie is its gospel message.  George Bailey gives up his own dreams so that he can help others. Having become frustrated with how life turns out he asks for a glimpse into what the world would be like if he had never been born.  When he finds himself at the end of his rope, he cries out to God to save him because he realizes his life has meaning and purpose only by the grace of God. 

The Christmas season comes with many traditions, which can be both great and problematic.  In Mark Chapter 7, we see Jesus address man’s problematic condition of allowing their traditions to control them. 

After a day’s work, Jesus’ disciples gather to eat, failing to go through the process of cleansing themselves before a meal.  The onlooking Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law gather around and ask Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands, v.5?” 

Jesus sees through to the hearts of the Pharisees who are trying to position themselves in a better light and says,“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions, v. 9,  and, he continues, Nothing that enters a man from outside can defile him, but rather it is what comes out of a person that defiles them, v. 15.”

When I consider the nostalgic traditions that can consume me at Christmas, am I more interested in all the things that “come into me,” e.g., my mother’s cutout sugar cookies and watching Christmas Vacation for the fiftieth time, or am I more concerned with those things that “come out of me” by honoring God and sharing the hope that He gave the world?”

This year as we celebrate Christmas, it is my encouragement for us to be less wrapped up with our traditions, and lift our eyes to the Lord in order to see the opportunities God has for us to love others and impact them for His greater good.