The new Christmas tradition: asking
Christmas is on, Christmas is off, Christmas is probably on but with less tat available in stores, Christmas depends vastly upon which state or territory borders you need to cross to see your family… Many of our Christmas routines are up in the air for the second year running. Sigh.
While Christmas is looking like being more normal than some of us were mentally preparing for, there is still a lot of change in the air. And change can be a good thing! It can push us into doing things that we’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t tried due to fear of rocking the boat.
One of those things might be Christmas evangelism—especially to our families.
When gathering with extended relatives, there are plenty of Christian families who keep their Jesus-centred traditions to themselves. They read Luke 2 to the kids snuggling in bed in the early morning, attend a church service while others cook Christmas lunch, and keep ‘religion’ out of the conversation of the day. Santa’s name is tossed around a lot more than Jesus’ while presents are being unwrapped.
Here’s my challenge to myself this Christmas: set a new tradition of asking. I can’t make my in-laws get over their belief that God is nothing to do with them. I can’t make my sister turn the oven off and relax. I can’t even get my child’s eyes off the mesmerising presents under the tree. But I can make this request: “We’re going to church on Christmas morning, and it would mean so much to us if you came. Can you please come with us this year?”
The other side of the tradition of asking is asking God to get your family members to agree. I’ve always been a bit confused by the parable in Luke 11 of the neighbour who nags for bread at night. Does God find our repeated prayers annoying? If I pray the exact same thing every Christmas—”Dear God, please get Bianca to come to church with us this Christmas”—is he going to groan, “Don’t bother me with this again!” But I’ve realised that Jesus makes the same point over and over in the Gospels: if even lazy friends and everyday dads and unjust judges eventually respond, how much more eager is God to do good? We get tired of asking well before God gets tired of saving.
And yes, by year eight Bianca may well be nagged out and wish we weren’t blood-related, but hopefully a warm tone that communicates the joy behind the request will help her want to come. Or maybe this year—unbeknownst to me—she’s more open to the gospel. (Lots of people are!) Or, like the judge and the neighbour-friend, maybe she will give in out of a desire to shut me up. But there aren’t many of us who eagerly sought Jesus’ kingdom, are there? We were dragged kicking and screaming from death to life; God knocked on our heart’s door over and over before unlocking it for us. I don’t think I need to fear a little repetition. It’s hardly a tradition without it!
“This year, come with me. See the king in the manger. He seems small, but he has a gift the size of eternity for you.”