First, I look at what are the benefits of traditions. While it may yield a wonderful song in Fiddler on a Roof, the benefits of tradition are somewhat nebulous to many. But we show value in those things we tradition-ize. That is to say, the things out of which we make a tradition are one being shown value in that act. The benefit is that these are very real pictures to those who come behind us, to those who see and interact with us, and to those who have no idea who we are. You see our traditions shape our reputation. While it could always be argued that our character is more important than our reputation, it is true that our reputation is largely molded from our character.
At any rate, I think that the internal benefit of tradition is the ability to do things that we believe are beneficial to our life without much need for consideration. It can be a way to develop good habits (of course that is why we need to try the traditions before they become such, because it also makes an easy development of bad habits possible). For those of of us with children, we know that their memories are fashioned by singular events, henceforth they will remember those things that are done the most often, the most. Therefore, we should do and perform those things regularly that are most advantageous to the reputation we wish to have.
Knowing that the decisions we make for various traditions are made up of choices made early, I have decided to not do anything thoughtlessly. This means that many people consider me to be strange, but I look at every decision made about Christmas celebration. While it may seem weird, I encourage everyone else to do it also. With that in mind, there are a few things that really assist our family in celebrating Christmas. Here they are.
- We go to a Christmas tree farm, where we take a hayride, go in a human maze, ride ponies (until we get too big and are required to go to horses), and ride a zip-line. We never buy a tree there, but we find the atmosphere really gets us in the Christmas spirit. We have a load of fun, we sing songs, we see friends, and we begin the discussion of how Jesus was born.
- We go look at Christmas lights. It allows us to have a discussion of how the star in Scripture was followed. Even though I do not believe the "wise men" arrived at his birth, it still is part of the story that shows the magnitude of God's Sovereignty.
- We listen to Christmas music. I'm not sure how redemptive it is, but it is happy! Christmas is one time, where all over the place you can have people who are completely anti-God for eleven months sing about the God they are actively rejecting. It makes it a great time to evangelize. I've been able to share my faith easily and without irritation to people at the supermarket, the bank, the courthouse, restaurants, and just about everywhere I go. We know how powerful music is in every other area of life, so it is no surprise that music plays a big role in that environment.
- We go to Sea World. While I don't necessarily think the people who perform or write the shows at Sea World have correct theology on everything, it is nice to go to a theme park, where there are thousands of people from all over the world, listening to a rudimentary presentation of the gospel. Literally thousands sing in Shamu Stadium, "Long lay the World in sin and error pining!"
- We go to a Christmas Eve Service. Just a great way to celebrate the holiday. It's kinda cool when Christmas falls on Sunday like this year, but the cultural phenomena of going to a service on Christmas Eve is powerful to both my kids and me.
- Finally, we have a Christmas Day breakfast. We don't do presents at it. We have over some friends and family, while I present a small story of why Christmas is important. Just as the symbolism of writing your first check after getting paid to the church shows what our "first fruits" are. We communicate what we care about by timing and doing a breakfast focusing on Christ first thing on Christmas morning symbolizes the first thing we think about the holiday.
Now none of these may work for you, but those are the things that have helped our family keep the proper focus on Christmas. We are not perfect and we certainly aren't the same as everyone else. We do think it is important to be mindful of all we do, as our children are picking up on our traditions, and we want to make them worthwhile!