Just as music gives shape to a few moments of the day, so seasonal celebrations give shape to the years of our lives. With this in mind, therefore, when Candace and I were first married, we wanted to think of ways to ensure that Christmas would be characterized by joy throughout our lives together. So from the start we settled upon some family traditions that would give joyous shape to our lives during this season. These traditions have proven to be very meaningful both to us and to our children through the years, so in the next several posts I’ll describe some of our traditions for Advent and Christmas.
In his hilarious comedy, Skipping Christmas, John Grisham parodies holiday traditions that arise simply out of convention or in obeisance to commercialism, nationalism and civic religion which we (like Grisham) seek to subvert. Rather than obligatory recital performances conducted with grim resolve, our traditions are joyous jazz improvisations on a recurring theme. Rather than adding even more commitments to an already over-long list of holiday to-do’s, they breathe life into the season by creating space for joyous memories together.
This year try reading aloud the nativity account from Luke, asking others to shout at every word they hear that is either joy or a word derived from joy (rejoice, overjoyed, etc.). You’ll be surprised at the chaos that will ensue! As Tolkien wrote:
“The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the inner consistency of reality. This story is supreme, and it has entered history. It is pre-eminently (and infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories“
Joy is what our Christmas traditions are about.
See also: Why make such a big deal about Christmas?