This is a scene from my parents’ house. Every year the mechanical Claus family, including Rudolf, relocate from the attic to the ledge above the refrigerator to bring my family a sense of familiar. Each time I see them I am reminded of previous years and all the memories that have accumulated under those animated decorations.
This past Friday night, I celebrated Christmas with my brother and his family in Germany. While they have established their own traditions, they still reflect the familiar patterns and style of how he and I grew up: they read the Christmas story, everyone opened one gift at a time. The only significant differences were the fact that my parents were not with us in Germany and there was no crackling sound from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. I guess it’s not the decorations that make it familiar. It’s not even the location. It’s the family part of familiar that counts.
Maybe that’s why God uses so many relationship metaphors to relate to us. We are His children and His friends. Jesus is our brother and our groom. It’s almost as if God wants to give us so many angles to understand Him so that we don’t miss what He’s trying to be for us. He wants to be familiar family. While the Claus family on the ledge at my parents’ house does not equal Christmas for me, it does help prepare me for what’s coming. In the same way, my service at church or my time in the Bible does not equal my relationship with God. But it does prepare me for it. These kinds of ‘traditions’ help me to stay ‘familiar’ with God.
God became human for us to know Him. He became one of us to relate in familiar, intimate ways. His desire to connect and relate to us is beyond my comprehension but I know that His passion for us is far greater than we can offer back. I pray that this Christmas season would be a time not of simply observing traditions, but of allowing the familiar to break through to the deepest parts and bring the life that Christmas offers. Emmanuel, God is with us. He has become our family. Merry Christmas!