In one of his Psalms, King David uses this expression: “I was young and now I am old.” That expression came to my mind as I was thinking of traditions created around the Christmas Season. There are many things happening around this time because they are in the Scriptures, but there are so many others that have become a part of the tradition of the Christmas Season.
Tradition is present in every culture and tradition exists in religion. There is tradition with a capital T in the Roman Catholic Church and there are hundreds of traditions sprinkled in Protestantism. Our Sunday services have doxologies, the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, creeds, confessions, and responses between the altar and the congregation. If by mistake, one of them is missing, someone quickly reminds us that we have made a mistake.
A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting with a young person and I told him how I was taught not to steal as a child. As I started to tell the story, he gently interrupted me and told me the story instead. I was smiling because, by now, the young people of the church have heard the story so many times that it has become the traditional illustration about not stealing.
In the Advent Season, there are churches that do not sing any Christmas carols until after the birth of Christ. The emphasis is on the darkness that reigned over the land until the birth of Jesus. Texts such as darkness reigned over the land of Zebulun and Naphtali are familiar texts (Matthew 4:15).
Central Baptist Church’s Christmas Candlelight Service is something that I inherited from the First Baptist Church of Hightstown where I served as the Minister of Christian Education for five years. I liked what the Senior Pastor did on Christmas Eve. I sent him a note telling him that I am using it and I gave them credit when I used it at the First Romanian Baptist Church of Chicago and then here at Central Baptist Church for the past 23 years.
The presence and color of the Christmas candles – purple, pink, white, and other varieties is another tradition. There are candles of prophets, angels, shepherds, and Magi. None of these four groups came to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ carrying their own candles. They are in our churches because they are a part of someone’s tradition. This year, I went shopping for the Advent candles and I was surprised that they were not there. I have created a tradition – this is the store from which I bought the candles for this church for over 20 years! Some new clerk ordered so many candles, but somehow forgot the traditional candles this year!
The Christmas traditions around our house are primarily the Hancock traditions. I hail from a house in which we had almost no decorations for the Christmas Celebration. We celebrated Christmas in an almost puritanical fashion – we knew our Bible, but had very few traditions. Imagine my surprise when I went to my wife’s family and saw all the pageantry around the Christmas celebration.
The last part of the Christmas traditions is the purchasing of gifts. We emphasize God’s greatest gift to us in the presence of His Son, but we share gifts with one another, traditionally purchased by my wife! If Ginny were to change this tradition, there would be a number of highly disappointed traditionalists in our midst!