When we had our own kids, we still didn't want to make Christmas about gifts and us, but Christ and his birth. We do put some small gifts into a stocking and they get to open that on Christmas morning. But, we're still not happy with how and why we celebrate Christmas. I don't want to be counter-culture for the sake of being counter-culture. But I also want my kids to grow up with traditions and special family memories.
So, I have been praying about it and reading anything I could find on the subject.
I heard about and was able to locate a copy of a book called 'Treasuring God in Our Traditions' by Noel Piper. Her husband John Piper is one of my favorite authors, so I esp enjoyed this peek into the life of their family. While I still don't have any concrete ideas for how I want our family to celebrate special holidays, etc, I do feel this book gave me a better overall view of why and how to do that.
John Piper wrote in the forward: "God is the treasure of our lives. We see him in everything. We believe with all our hearts that 'for him and through him and to him are all things.' He gets the glory, we get the joy. My job has been to articulate the vision in writing. Noel has shaped a family around it."
I love it! I want to shape my family around that belief.
Some things that I took from the book:
1. Everything we do in our 'everyday' traditions as well as our 'especially' traditions should point our children to God. From brushing teeth to birthday parties to Christmas celebrations. Our job as parents is 'You shall teach them (Moses words from God) diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.'
That means ALL the time. It's such a big job, but yet so simple.
2. I want to study the Israelite holidays, ceremonies and traditions more, to get a better understanding of how God intended the Israelites to pass along their knowledge and love for Him.
3. For any tradition we start or continue, we need to think about it in terms of a. looking ahead and b. looking behind. In other words, when celebrating a birthday, it should include a time of reflection on how the person has grown, thankfulness to God for all that has happened in that person's life that year, and about where that person will be the next year, decade, etc.
4. Tradition can and should include prayers/prayer times and music.
5. Traditions need to be purposeful, planned, regular and for a specific reason.
Here are some quotes from the book:
"Although this book offers ideas that I hope will be helpful as examples of God-centered traditions, this is not a how-to manual. I am praying that it will inspire us to look at God with fresh eyes, to see and love and desire the treasure that he is. And I'm praying that the traditions of our lives will be filled with the treasure that fills our heart on 'everday' days and on 'especially' days." p. 16
"May God give us eyes to see him, hearts to love him, and a passion to show him to our children." p. 39
Celebrations are the ritualized interruptions in the continuum of daily life which remind us who we are, where we came from and where we are going. (Milo Shannon-Thornberry, The Alternate Celebrations Catalogue) p. 62
"May the ceremonies of our homes be true ceremony-from him, because of him, pointing toward him, honoring him, thanking him. Amen." p.105
The one thing that I really came away with from the book is a bit of a side-note of the book. Our children do not join us in 'big church' on Sundays. And I have been impressed lately, with the need to train my children to respect and revere God. I realize that is a life-long task, one I struggle with myself at times.
One thing she said really convicted me. "The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is that their parents do not cherish the hour. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. Therefore, the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God. You can't impart what you don't possess."
So not only do I want to work on my own attitude during corporate worship, but then I also want to train my children on their journey toward reverence and respectful worship of Creator God-both at home and in the church.
Lord, help me to never lose sight of my ultimate goal in training my children. To know and love you with all their hearts.