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Dec20FriA family Christmas tradition helped me stay focused on the meaning of the season. December 20, 2013 by Jennifer Austin
Christmas was the most anticipated time of the year for me as a child. My three siblings and I looked forward to this season for months prior, dreaming about the wonders we'd see. We longed for Christmas and it seemed like time slowed down in response to our eagerness for the festivities to begin. Soon October came to a close, the days grew shorter and the air changed from crisp to cold. Our hearts began to beat a little faster and we could almost hear the jingle bells as the first snowflakes quietly fell.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
I remember when my father finally allowed us to start watching our VHS Christmas movies and listen to Christmas music on cassette tapes. This would always be the signal for me that Christmas was finally here. Soon we'd find ourselves practising for pageants, decorating and thinking of toys to add to our wish list.
Our family had many traditions that we all looked forward to. One of our favourites was when my father set up our Nativity scene. Our set was made of large ceramic figures that were crafted carefully and given lifelike features. Every year, we took turns putting on the final touch—placing baby Jesus in the manger.
As our family took part in this tradition, my father played a song in the background called Move Me Closer, by Evie Tornquist-Karlsson, with these lyrics: “Move me closer, move me closer, move me closer to the child. Let me see him, let me hold his hand. Move me closer to the child (click here to listen to the song on YouTube).” While listening to this song, a peace and reverence fell in our living room. As children, we understood what this season was really about and I'm sure this was our parents' intention.
In the real world, there are two kinds of Christmases that compete with each another. The “Santa” kind of Christmas is one where people find themselves rushing from store to party to pageant to store to bank. Christmas becomes a time of over-indulgence, over-spending, over-eating and over-exerting oneself, trying to complete all the tasks at hand. The “Jesus” kind of Christmas is a much quieter one. More than 2,000 years ago, during a very busy time of taxation, love came down to a tiny town. Not even the innkeeper could have understood the magnitude of the little baby's cry that pierced the silent night.
As Christians, we are living in a world that cannot hear the voice of Jesus above the jingle bells. They are celebrating a season they know nothing about. The world's traditions of Christmas have left Jesus out of the equation. Many people find themselves feeling empty and broken when the party finally stops.
As Christians it is so easy to get caught up with all the fun and celebrating. If we're not careful, we could very easily find ourselves celebrating a Christ-less Christmas. My parents knew this and wanted to make sure that we remembered Move Me Closer more than Jingle Bells. Shouldn't that be our prayer at Christmastime? Move me closer? During this season, worship should explode within our church services with shouts and praise! The king of love has come! Instead, many people come to church on Sunday mornings in December utterly exhausted, their minds cluttered with to-do lists.
I never want to stop all the traditions I enjoyed as a child that I am beginning to pass on to my own children. I enjoy watching the excitement on their faces as we get ready to watch the Christmas parade and the boat lighting in Port de Grave, N.L. I am experiencing all the joys I had as a child vicariously through my boys, and it's wonderful!
However, my family and I need to intentionally take inventory of our traditions and be sure that the message of Jesus can be heard in the midst of it all. While writing this, I took a few moments to listen to Move Me Closer. Memories came like a flood and tears flowed down my cheeks as I was reminded of the riches my parents gave me. Knowing Jesus is priceless, timeless and the most important gift you can give to your children.
Jennifer Austin spent much of her childhood in the town of Gander, N.L., where her parents, Majors Roy and Louise Perry, were stationed for seven years. Majors Perry are currently stationed in Stephenville, N.L., while Austin, her husband, and two sons worship at Port de Grave Pentecostal Tabernacle in Port de Grave, N.L.
(Photo: © iStockphoto.com/duckycards)