Tag Archive: Christmas tradition


In response to a piece i shared on Christmas, which among other things, invited readers to share some of their creative/revolutionary/others-focused ideas they had for celebrating Christmas, i was tweeted by Graham Heslop links to two articles, asking me to check them out.

i’m not going to lie, i wasn’t super enthusiastic, mostly because the idea of reading more articles feels a little bit like work. But Graham is someone i follow on the Twitterer [@avosquirrel] and generally like or agree with a bunch of stuff he has posted and so i went to take a look. And was pretty much blown away.  Thank you, Graham!

Short, simple and to the point and both well worth reading, especially the first one focusing on Incarnation which is a concept i completely love and a drawn towards.

The Christ Event and the True Christmas Spirit –  Graham Heslop

He quotes J.I. Packer as referring to the idea of Incarnation as  ‘the most profound and unfathomable depths of Christian revelation’: God took on human flesh and was born. The eternal Son, who was with the Father, through whom the world was created and by whom all life is sustained, became a man (John 1:1-4, 14).

One thing i really love about the idea of the Incarnation is the picture that it presents of this message of ours which is meant to be ‘Good News’ and yet which too often [thanks to our messiness] is not presented that way. But taking us back in reminding us that the Christmas message is that of God leaving the luxuries of heaven behind and revealing Himself to us, face to face.

He ends it by pointing us towards a ‘true meaning of Christmas type message’ where he highlights, the model of Christ we are called to imitate: continual and selfless pursuit of others’ interests.’

Christmas and Incarnation should be held hand in hand and this post by Graham really helped achieve that in simple yet dramatic form.

The Traditions of Men and our Forgotten King – Graham Heslop

This piece focuses on the tension that exists between human traditions and the Kingship of Jesus. I love how he sums it up:

When it came to the traditions of men Jesus was incensed by their obscuring effect; his fight was not against the Jews’ practices and cultural artifacts, but how those drew the Jewish people away from God. 

He reminds us that Jesus was pretty harsh with the religious leaders of the day and this quote from Mark 7 backs that up:

“You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition, making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7:9, 13).

As we head into the Christmas season and a huge spotlight falls on our plans, our parties, our food, our presents, there is an ongoing refrain of ‘Me, me, me, me, me, me’ that can be heard and observed if you listen closely enough. Christmas gives us the ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card to justify any crazy, out of control spending we would not be happy with at any other time of the year.

Graham sums up this wrestling so clearly:

Tomorrow is the day in the Christian calendar when we remember the Son’s self-giving work, which began with the incarnation. Yet tomorrow is most likely already consumed by brightly adorned trees sheltering piles of presents, large family gatherings, and gluttonously sized meals – the traditions of men.

And draws mention to Jesus as ‘The Forgotten King’ and the desperate call that in the midst of all of the building up of momentum as we head towards Christmastime, we don’t lose sight of the One who all this is meant to be about… and the life and world transforming lifestyle He calls us to be living out.

Let’s not miss Christ this Christmas.

[For the piece i wrote inviting you to share your creative Christmas ideas with us all, click here]

[For an older piece i wrote on Keeping the Cross in Cross-mas, click here]


one of the worst things for me about Christmas is the excess.

when it comes to food i have a saying that goes, ‘Gluttony is its own reward’ and it’s true… and i need to be intentional before i sit down at a Christmas meal laden with yummy foods to calm down and have a decent meal but not go overboard. which is why Val and i have taken on a tradition both our families taught us to do, which involves inviting people who are likely to be by themselves to join us for a meal which we usually do on Christmas Eve.

but when it comes to gift-giving and spending money you often don’t have on things people often don’t want or need often [although not always] because of the feeling 0f compulsion [they are going to give me something so i have to get them something, or i am expected to get something for so and so] and that just makes me sad and irritated and bleargh.

but this post is not about that [trying to do more shining light and less pointing out poo in my life these days]

it is not even about this incredible video which really inspired me both by the incredibleness of a village in Malawi being able to obtain clean water for the first time ever [and how we can be a part of funding that] but more so just by the heart and life and community that exudes out of these people [who the majority of us blog-reading types would probably consider poor – although it looks like they have so much to offer us in terms of living well and appreciating each other].

this post is suggesting a gift idea that you might want to consider [especially, but not exclusively, if you are a married couple] giving to a couple you know to send them the message that you are cheering on their marriage [which let’s face it, is an institution under much stress and attack these days]

i don’t think i ever would have been thought such a thing if it hadn’t been done for us…

in our time at the Simple Way in Philadelphia, our schedule was pretty hectic [morning prayer at 8am then work from 9 to 5 then something on most evenings and in ‘our spare time’ the idea of connecting with the locals and building community on Potter Street] and we also lived in intentional community with 3 other people [and not the thickest of bedroom walls] in a house that was the centre hub of all the local action with food distributions and after school programs and community potluck meals and so time was a scarce commodity. also with people around all the time our bedroom was both a place of intimacy [remember those walls?]and conflict as it was the only place we really had to be alone – not the most conducive for growing healthy relationship.

and we were in the middle of a voyage of discovery as far as finances and living simply and a mindset that had just moved from South African rands [small] to Americanese Dollars and prices of things in dollars which seemed very daunting once we multipled them by 9, then 10, then 10 and a half…

[enter Lisa and Jacques, stage left]

now to set some context, Lisa’s parents are family friends of ours [who just happen to share the same last name as us but are not officially related although quite possibly more related than mere blood – they have played a huge and encouraging role in the life of our family] and at that point i had never even met Jacques and possibly seen Julie last ten years previously or something… this came out of nowhere.

dATEand i’m not sure if i am remembering this correctly, but i feel like it might have come as a once off gift and then was quickly followed by a note that said, ‘actually we are going to be doing this every month for the next year’ – but the point is this – they committed to giving us a gift of a date night once a month for a year.


such a powerful and surprising and effective and life-transforming gift

what was great about it was that it was money given to us to specifically ‘waste on ourselves’ – we don’t have to make any decisions on if or how we could spend it, because they had designated it to be spent for date nights and so once a month [and it was a generous amount so often stretched to more than once] we could head out and find some respite and space for us to just spoil ourselves and be able to date each other.

i don’t know that this is true for every couple, but i do know that we have found marriage to be hard. add into that mix moving city [and country] three times in the four years of being married and having to figure out and then live in the new transitions that life has dealt us and it has not always been easy to give each other the focus and love that we should. having a year’s worth of Date Nights from the Pieterse’s was an absolute gift.

so, if you are a couple who is doing alright financially, that might be one way in which you could really encourage another couple. maybe it is a young couple in their first year of marriage; maybe it is a couple who have just transitioned into a new place or season or work situation; maybe it can take the form of offering a night of babysitting to a couple with children so that they can get out for the night; maybe it is a couple you know who have been struggling a bit in their marriage and could maybe use a bit of a boost.

start by doing it as a once off. anonymously or with a note [i like the idea of identifying yourselves so that you can send the message of ‘we have your backs’ – ‘we are cheering you on’. and then possibly commit to doing it for a year or even just six months and let the couple know what your commitment is so they can be planning for it.

and if you decide to do this, i would so love to hear who you chose and how it goes…

well, here we are – December 2 – WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?

yup, somehow December snuck up on us all again and pretty soon it will be Christmas – you know the time to celebrate gluttony and spend time, energy and money on buying things for people that they don’t need or often even want? wait, that’s not sposed to be it, right?

it’s Christmas – the time of good will to all mankind and a whole lot of Fah La La La La’ing…

let me cut to the chase – what excites me every year about Christmas is the stories of people who get creative around this time to reach out to others – the lonely, the old, those in hospital, those living on the streets – whose Christmas is not likely to look anything like worshipping the Fat Elf of Gluttony – and making even the smallest amount of difference in their lives [although i see Love, Joy, Hope, Community and Acceptance as huge big-ass gifts]


tbV and i are about to celebrate our 5th Christmas together and before we let it run away with us, we decided to be intentional about coming up with some of our own new traditions that will help this holiday feel special to us… and that got me thinking about how we collectively [as the bigger community of us] can help each other to make this the best Christmas possible for the aforementioned ‘least of these’ and others…

This is what i want to invite you into. If you already have a tradition of doing something for others on or around Christmas day, then i would love for you to share it in the comments section. If you have ever been the recipient of someone else reaching out and doing something meaningful and life-transforming for you on Christmas day i would love to hear those stories as well. But more importantly, the invitation is to sit with your friends and/or family and come up with one new tradition to start doing this Christmastime that will help make someone else’s Christmastime really special [especially someone who needs it more]

Will this mean inviting someone into your family meal? Or volunteering with a group of friends at a local shelter Christmas meal? Will it mean getting creative in gift-making? Or sitting down and writing a letter, note or card to someone who is likely to spend this time alone? Or are you going to really hit one out of the park by taking this kind of inspiration and turning it into something that the recipient will remember for a long long time?

So, in the comments section of this blog, i want you to share with us all the idea you have that you are going to do this Christmastime. Perhaps you want to draw some more inspiration from these amazing stories of families who got creative in raising their young children as world changers. But let us know what you’re going to do – and the hope is that as we share ideas, we will be inspired by other peoples’ ideas and try out some of these things together…

Who is in?


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