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A traditional Christmas?

Posted by Simon Parke, 07 December 2017, 5.38am

Jesus apart, the best thing about the first Christmas was that there were no traditions.

At the arrival of the Magi, the shepherd didn’t say, ‘I’m afraid my wife’s family don’t really do wise men at Christmas.’

At the first Christmas, no one had a clue; they were making it up as they went along, which is quite nice really.

We’re always making it up as we go along; how else can it be?

And perhaps at Christmas, this truth is particularly pressing…lest we get entangled in unhelpful narratives, both ours and others’.

Life is change, and so is Christmas, as beliefs change, needs change, families grow up and new voices and alliances appear.

Sadly, the ‘festive period’ (so-called) can become a tug-of-war between different family traditions.

As a son explains to his mother:

‘Sarah’s family always get together for Christmas lunch, and open presents afterwards. It’s their family tradition!’

‘But what about our family tradition of presents at midday and a visit to grandpa for the Queen’s speech?!’

One mother is so disappointed she lost the tug-of-war this year, she’s going away on safari for Christmas, and not seeing anyone.

We can get attached to our traditions and become angry when we perceive them to be threatened or ignored.

And we can grind ourselves to frazzled dust trying to honour everyone else’s traditions for fear of offence.

Traditions can be splendid, of course; a safe and holding place, something fixed and restorative in an un-fixed world.

But they come and they go; traditions are for a while. And there’s no tradition we can’t let go of.

They best bend in the wind of change or become brittle and shatter.

The thing is, a tradition is not an end in itself; but a window on to this present moment.

If it ever obscures that; if it ever distracts from this precious once-only now; if it ever becomes oppressive, needy or surly…then it’s time the tradition died.

And we can start again, start afresh, like children at the start of the holidays, making it up as we go along… the stable gang.

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