Christmas Traditions

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas…

Life seems to constantly be changing.  That is why having and keeping some traditions is important.  It helps keep a continuity and meaning to life, and certainly this is important at Christmas.  Compared to some people, we don’t have a lot of traditions.  But there are a few that we have kept that are meaningful.  And of course there is always room to start a new tradition.

It is harder now that we are all adults to coordinate our schedules to be able to complete some of our traditional activities.  We didn’t all pile into the car and drive around the neighborhood to ooh and aah at Christmas lights on houses.  It doesn’t look like we will get time to bake and decorate our sugar cookies this year.  And we haven’t watched Christmas movies each night for the week leading up to Christmas.

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There is one more tradition that we did not do this year that I want to tell you about.  It has been a very important tradition for most of the growing up years of the boys.  It’s a wonderful tradition, and I hope some of you who read this article might adopt this idea.  After I explain it, I will also tell you why we did not do it this year.

So here is what we did for many years to help make Christmas special and meaningful for our boys.  Like many others, we often found that Christmas morning would arrive and there would be a very large number of presents under the tree.  But everyone in our family knew that though there were many presents, most of which did not cost much, there would always be three specific special presents for each person.

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Following the example of the Christmas story in the Bible, we would mark three gifts to be the “gold” gift, the “frankincense” gift, and the “myrrh” gift.  Like many other children, our boys would make a “wish list” of things they hoped they might get for Christmas.  Of course there was no way we could ever buy them all the things they wanted.  But they always knew each year that they would receive one present from their list, and being as it was so special to them, it became their gold gift.

Frankincense in the Bible was a special incense that was burnt as part of the regular worship of the True God in Heaven above.  Therefore, we would give our boys some form of a spiritual present, like a Christian music CD, a devotional book, or a calendar with Scripture verses on it.  The myrrh, which was a special ointment for the body, was used as a symbol for us that it is okay to “treat” yourself at times.  So we would buy some funny toy or the latest movie DVD that they liked.

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The point for us as we traditionally sat around the Christmas tree opening presents, was to remember the first Christmas, when three wise men from the east visited baby Jesus and gave these three special gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant who is the King of Kings.  In this way, we were able to keep our Christmas from being overcome with all the pizzazz and commercialism that we face in today’s world.

But this year, we did not hold to this tradition.  Not because we no longer like it, and certainly not that we have outgrown making Christmas meaningful.  Actually, it was just the opposite for us this year.  In fact, we all had said to one another this year, “Let’s try to not have presents, and just enjoy being together for Christmas.”  (You know we almost did it, but we still snuck a few presents under the tree.)

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What we did do though I think was even more special.  And it was the first time to do this as completely as we did this year.  After we had all enjoyed our yummy Christmas dinner, we all gathered in the living room to have a sharing and praying worship time together.  Each of us would take a turn and tell what were the highlights of 2011 and what God had done for that person.  And then the person would share ideas and hopes and prayer needs regarding the upcoming year.

After the person had shared, then whoever was on the right would pray for all the things mentioned.  Following that, the person who shared would pick out a Christmas carol or two and we joined our voices in praise to God who is the Author behind the Christmas Story.  It was truly a wonderful, spirit filled evening that the six of us shared together.

This is not to say that we haven’t had similar Christmases where we ate, and sang and worshiped God together.  But this year, we were all fully adult people.  And yet like little children we opened our hearts to each other and before God as we shared, and cared and prayed and worshiped.

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I don’t think we will ever get to the point that we don’t have some presents at Christmas time.  That is so much a part of the tradition of Christmas.  But with the decrease of presents, we had to let one tradition slip away, the giving of the three special gifts.

In its place, we may have just started a brand new tradition, to focus even more on worshiping our Great God, and caring for each other in our family.  May you too also find your own way to make each and every Christmas special and have Jesus be in the center of whatever you do.

Merry Christmas!  And God bless you in the coming New Year!

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The Blessing of Sharing

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Active in Sharing Your Faith

Paul prayed for Philemon: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 1:6).

What in the world was the connection between being active in sharing his faith (the context of this passage is sharing faith with believers—not witnessing to unbelievers) and Philemon understanding all he had in Christ? When we share with others what Christ is doing in our lives (or when we hear others share the same with us) three things happen:

1. Our faith grows. We gain a deeper desire to love and serve the One who is doing all these powerful things. We gain more faith and experience more of Jesus Christ’s reality. We also keep our eyes open for things to share.

2. We discover more about who God is. The more we share or hear others share, the more we learn about God’s attributes. We come to know Him as our Provider, our Rock, our Comforter, our Peace-Giver, our Protector, our Strong Tower, our Deliverer. We learn exactly what Paul wanted Philemon to learn—what he had in Christ.

3. God’s blessings continue to flow. When we regularly share, thus giving glory to Jesus Christ, I believe that God works overtime in our lives. He wants to give us more to share, so we give more glory and fame to His Son. So it is a cycle. See God work; learn something about God; share it; see God work more; understand more of God’s nature.

[In light of what we have just read from this devotional thought above, take the prayer offered below and think of a fellow Christian whom you would want to be bold in their faith and so share the same knowledge and blessings that Paul wanted Philemon to experience.]

Father, please work mightily in ____________________’s situation. Reveal more of Your nature and character to her (or him). Father, I pray that ____________________ would understand all she has in Jesus Christ: the depth of His love; the comfort, power, and enablement of Your Holy Spirit. Let Your Spirit bubble up in her so it would overflow into others. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

–Taken from Praying like Paul (Learning to Pray the Kingdom for Those You Love) by Jonathan Graf

Posted 22 Aug 2011

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One of the wonderful paradoxes of the Christian faith is that the more you give it away, the more you have to give away.  Just talk to the person who prepares a Sunday sermon, or a Bible study, or a special song to be sung at church, and you will often hear them say, “I got so much more out of that myself as I studied/prepared to share what God had given to me.”  The simple fact is that when we seek to bless others, we in turn are also blessed by God, and in an abundant measure.

The Scriptures say this in Luke 6:38:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Let me put this in a way that I’m sure all of us can identify.  You know how when you buy popcorn at the theater, you bounce the bag on the counter to make it settle into the bag and there is room to put more in the bag?  Well, that is what “pressed down, shaken together and running over is all about.  God will put more back into our “generosity bag” every time we give from the heart to bless someone else.

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I know that I can testify to this biblical principle.  Perhaps one of the best examples I can think of was when I offered to hold a kind of “Bible School” in our village.  There is a long story behind this and I will share that on another post one day.  But suffice it to say that there was a spiritual crisis in our village after one of their leaders from the local Catholic Church died.

I had just been blessed in the previous summer to lead a 6-week Bible survey course in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.  So while I was saddened at the loss of a friend, I was eager to share the Bible knowledge I had with the people.  They enthusiastically agreed to let me hold a Bible training week once each month for six months to teach them what the Bible was all about.

It is hard to express in words the joy I experienced in sharing my knowledge of Scripture with the local people there.  And I was so blessed to see the spiritual vitality in so many of them come alive.  The translation work got a real boost as my national co-translators really dug into getting some Scriptures translated.  And I believe that the foundation for the current church revival that is happening may have come out of our Bible school program.

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So as we enter December and approach the Christmas season, let me ask you this question: is sharing your faith in some form a part of the presents you will be giving away this year?  But let’s not limit this just to Christmas.  Have you considered ways that you might be able to share of the blessings you have by being in Christ to be part of what you do in 2012?  For your sake, as well as for others, I hope that it will be so.