BY: Brenna Gillis
E-MAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org
BIBLE TEXT: Luke 2:4-7, NKJV: “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
PERSONAL REFLECTION: I love traditions. There’s just something about engaging in a familiar custom—one with fond memories surrounding it—that fills me with a sense of joy and belonging. I’m sure that my love for tradition is part of why I cherish the Christmas season. Growing up, my family enjoyed numerous traditions that made the holidays special: from picking a Christmas tree on the day before Thanksgiving, to indulging in my mom’s homemade cherry pastry on Christmas morning, our unique holiday traditions definitely filled the season with excitement. Now that I’m an adult, continuing these customs is especially meaningful.
However, despite the joy that Christmas traditions bring, they can become a distraction from the reason we observe this holiday in the first place. For many of us, the hours that we have spent Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, and tree decorating have already exceeded the time that we’ve spent reflecting on Christ’s miraculous entrance into our world. More and more each year, I realize how easily the busyness of the season can eclipse my awe and gratefulness toward God—the One whose gift, His Son, changed the course of history and eternity. It is all too easy to “miss” the point of Christmas.
Reading the apostle Luke’s account of the Christmas story, we see that tradition and busyness are not new distractions. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the people were participating in a nationwide census (a custom in their culture) which required some citizens to spend many weeks traveling to their cities of origin. In fact, the time was so busy and Bethlehem was so crowded that not even a woman on the verge of delivery could find a room in which to stay. From the rest of the story we know that very few individuals—a couple shepherds (Luke 2:15) and some foreign kings (Matthew 2:1-2)—recognized Jesus’ birth as the incredible, world-changing event that it was. There many other reasons why Jesus’ culture “missed” the significance of his birth; however, I cannot help but wonder if tradition and busyness contributed to His humble beginning.
PERSONAL APPLICATION: Christmas traditions and activities can fill the season with excitement. However, they easily become distractions unless they direct our focus to the true message of the season: God’s amazing love for humanity, conveyed through the gift of His Son—our Savior. This season, I am purposing not to let my hectic holiday schedule keep me from reflecting on how Jesus’ birth transformed history, and how the salvation I have through Him daily transforms my life.
PRAYER: Dear Father, we come before you this Christmas season with hearts full of gratitude and awe. The gift of your Son is an incredible expression of your love toward us, more than we could ever deserve. In the midst of our busyness, let us keep Jesus at the center of our gaze. Help us to enjoy our traditions without letting them distract us from the true meaning of Christmas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brenna lives in Mt. Juliet, TN with her husband, Scott. She was born and raised in Wisconsin, but moved to Tennessee three years ago to study nursing at Vanderbilt. Currently, she works as a psychiatric nurse practitioner at a private practice in Murfreesboro, and is also completing her doctorate degree part-time. When she is not working or studying, Brenna loves to spend time with her husband, family, and friends—and especially enjoys being active outdoors, dancing, Zumba-ing, and chatting with loved ones over a (large) mug of coffee! At Life, Brenna serves in the Broo, at the Kids’ Check-in station, and on the Ministry Team.