…Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
— 2 Timothy 3:14,15
When Denise and I began our family, we made a decision that we would open no gifts on Christmas morning until we had first read the Christmas story in its entirety to our sons. The impact my father made on me by following this practice for a few years during my childhood never left me. I pledged that when I became a father, my own family would read the Christmas story before a single gift was opened.
Although our sons were eager to open gifts, they understood the rules — and those rules meant that we were going to place God’s Word first before opening gifts. Knowing that this was the plan, and that nothing was going to alter it, actually helped our children listen attentively. Not only did we carefully read the Christmas story to them, we also involved them in the conversation. Sometimes we devoted a full hour to this discussion before we even moved toward the Christmas tree. The Word of God — and reading as a family about the real reason for Christmas — reigned supreme above everything else. And guess what? As we discussed Herod, the wise men, the angels, the guiding star, and so forth, this biblical story became a favorite highlight of Christmas and a cherished memory for our sons.
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Each year as I’d read from the Bible, I’d ask our sons questions, and the boys would raise their hands, eager to give the answers. It became like a holiday game. As result, our sons became soundly educated in the Christmas story and the many interesting facts surrounding this momentous event that even most adults don’t know.
Unlike my father who started a tradition but didn’t continue it, we continued in it. Now our sons are adults with their own children, and Denise and I have allowed our sons to take the prominent role in reading the Christmas story. Even today, no one would think to violate this holy tradition in our family. How could we open gifts before putting God’s Word first? To put Him first and continue this handed-down custom is the most wonderful part of our Christmas experience!
Traditions are something that must be started and maintained. The apostle Paul told Timothy, “…Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures….”
Let’s look at the word “continue” for a moment. It was translated from the Greek word meno, which means to abide or to stay. But when it becomes the present active imperative voice, as it appears here, it means it is a command that is to be actively followed and never broken. It describes a constant and continual habit. This word meno could be used to describe my own daily Bible reading, for example. I am firmly committed to never breaking this constant and continual habit. It is my daily tradition, custom, ritual, or practice — one that I abide in and refuse to violate.
Today I want to encourage you with the seed of an idea: Please consider starting an unbreakable, once-a-year tradition of setting gifts aside momentarily to read the Christmas story with your children or grandchildren — or with whomever you share your Christmas morning — before opening those gifts. It will take discipline for you to do this, and you’ll have to stress to your children or grandchildren that this is a new tradition that you’re beginning this year. Then plan on continuing the tradition year after year from this point forward.
I can tell you with assurance that this new tradition will add richness and depth to your Christmas experience. And as those portions of Scripture become interwoven in the fabric of your Christmas memories over the years, the eternal truth found within the words will get planted deeper and deeper in your hearts. More and more, you and your family will be able to better comprehend the magnitude of the miracle we all celebrate at Christmastime — when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I realize that continual, godly habits build stability into a life and a family. Today’s Sparkling Gem is a practical example of how traditions can help cultivate godly character through the good habit of placing God’s Word first before natural enjoyment. I can see the benefits of starting and continuing this wonderful tradition for my family. Help me be a voice of loving influence in getting this Christmas tradition started and then to help sustain it through the years with my family. I pray that all of us who share our Christmas mornings together — no matter how young or how old — will grow in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ because we have made the commitment to start this tradition!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
This Christmas I will start a new tradition with my family and my loved ones. BEFORE anything else on Christmas, we will begin the day by reading the Christmas story from the Bible. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will help us make this a happy and joyful time in the Word of God as a family. Afterward, we’ll enjoy the rest of our Christmas festivities together. But from this year on, we will begin our Christmas Day focused on the reason we are even celebrating this holiday in the first place!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- How will you get started with this new tradition? It’s easy to do. Just make an announcement that you’re going to read the Christmas story before you open gifts. Have everyone bring their Bibles into the room where your Christmas tree and gifts are (or whatever room you choose), gather together, and let members of the family read different verses of the story so that everyone feels like he or she is a part of what is happening.
- As you’re reading, be sure to stop and ask, “What does this mean to you?” Let your family members know that you’re not rushing — that you’re going to soak in this most important story. You’ll be amazed at what different family members, especially your children or grandchildren, will come up with in what they ask and what they answer! Why not read through the Christmas story in advance for yourself and write down a few questions that would be good to ask your family members? Did you learn anything new as you did this?
- Once you’re finished reading the Christmas story, I encourage you to join hands and pray together — and thank your Heavenly Father that He sent Jesus into the world to redeem us from our sins. Then tear into those gifts! Consider writing down your memories from this first experience of your new lifelong tradition.