This is the third Sunday of Advent, and as you have noticed, some of the elements of our liturgy have shifted to reflect that. Our opening greeting, our creed, as well as the hymns. Some of you may be following some advent readings or traditions in your homes as well.
It is right and good that we should seek to orient our lives to the gospel. Telling time from the birth of Christ to the life of Christ to the suffering and death of Christ to the resurrection and ascension of Christ is what the church calendar is for. But we want personal faith and obedience to be the horse that pulls the trailer of these kinds of traditions. We do not want these traditions to be what pulls our faith and obedience because that horse of tradition can’t pull the trailer of faith.
So one of the key questions you should ask is whether your advent/Christmas traditions are building fellowship and joy in Christ or not. It’s relatively easy to point out that your tradition means really good stuff. “We light this candle on the third Sunday of Advent because it reminds us that Mary and Joseph didn’t have electricity.” Ok, maybe not that.
But it’s perilously easy to assume that what you think your tradition is doing must be doing it because that’s what you were told it would do. Maybe you saw some super-involved homeschool mom on youtube talking about their family’s Christmas traditions and how it just brings them all together. And maybe it does – for them. But you can’t just cut and paste these things and then when your family feels like its getting dragged down the road, tell them to just hold on: this is what Christmas is all about.
So the point is to keep your priorities straight. Keep Jesus central. Keep the Word central. Make sure you’re staying in fellowship as a family and really enjoying walking together in the Light, in the joy of the Lord. Traditions are real gifts from the Lord, and understood rightly, they’re just ways we enjoy loving God and one another and remembering to do so. If your family traditions do that, then keep doing them. But don’t let traditions become nooses or distractions. We are free in Christ—free to love Him and one another.