Today on the blog, Stephen Grames, our Executive Pastor, shares some of his favorite Christmas traditions.
I think many people do not grasp how much our experience of Christmas is wrapped in cultural traditions. I didn’t, until I spent my first Christmas in coastal Colombia, South America.
Christmas wasn’t commercialized there as it is here. There were no malls in the little town we lived in. As the Christmas season approached, the shops along the streets didn’t play Christmas music or add Christmas lights or Christmas displays. There were no jingle bells, or silver bells, or holly, or pretty much anything that I associated with Christmas.
It was hot, humid, and dusty (pretty much the same all year). I wasn’t going to see a white Christmas. On Christmas Eve our family went to bed, as was our custom, and woke up to a very quiet community that was sleeping off all-night parties with family and friends.
We learned that Christmas in that culture is mostly celebrated on Christmas Eve by visiting family and friends or hosting family and friends. On that first Christmas day in Monteria, Colombia, because most everyone was sleeping off their Christmas Eve party, the power company decided it was a good day to turn off the power. So, we woke to a house without electricity. We couldn’t play background Christmas music or turn on the lights on the artificial Christmas tree we had brought with us. Most everything that I associated with Christmas wasn’t.
That really caused me to ask, what have we done to Christmas?
The first Christmas didn’t have jingle bells, sleigh rides in the snow, decorated trees, chestnuts roasting by the fire, or a black Friday and crowded malls. It was simple and quiet, except for the angels and animal noises.
I think that is why I like the carol “Oh Holy Night.” It paints a picture of a holy night full of solemnity, not hustle and exhaustion. This holy night is about the birth of our Savior. It is about the hope he brings to a world that previously was without hope. It’s about how his love breaks down barriers, gives freedom to those in bondage, and brings peace to the oppressed.
As a child, my parents placed more emphasis on the Christmas story than on gift giving. Even though we heard the Christmas story in church, our Christmas day started with the reading of the Christmas story. The gift exchange would wait. Preparations for Christmas dinner would wait. The Christmas story was the reason we celebrated Christmas and that would be most important for us.
It still is the most important reason, and my prayer is that it will be for you as well.
Pastor Stephen Grames