The Changing Nature of Family Traditions

Family traditions mean a great deal to our family, especially to our youngest son. One of our favorite family traditions is Christmas. For the past several years Christmas has included my wife (Roberta) and I, my oldest son (AJ) and his wife (Eleanor), our youngest son (Mark) and his girlfriend (Bethany). On Christmas Eve we go to church, come home and have a feast of fatty finger foods and watch a Christmas movie (The Muppets’ Christmas Carol is a favorite). We often open one gift that night.

On Christmas Day we spend almost half the day opening gifts since we take turns opening them one at a time to share the enjoyment of each gift for each person. This is followed by a great breakfast prepared by my wife.

But this year was different. My oldest son and daughter-in-law had our first grandchild and moved (from California to Missouri) so that my son could finish grad school. So they were not with us but they were able to travel to Texas to spend Christmas with Eleanor’s parents.

We invited my mother-in-law (who lives in Pennsylvania) to spend the holidays with us. After being here just one day she had a serious fall and has been in the intensive care unit of the local hospital the last 12 days. She was unconscious for four days but is doing much better now and is scheduled to be moved out of intensive care this weekend.

So while some things were the same, it was not the Christmas tradition we were used to and even some of the changes did not take place as we had planned. It was still very enjoyable—just different.

And more changes are on the horizon. It is likely that by Christmas next year our youngest son and his girlfriend will be married. Our oldest son and his wife will still be in Missouri. We’re not sure what Christmas next year will look like.

John Piper writes in his book The Pleasures of God about the obstacles to completely satisfying joys in this world. One that he notes is: “that our joys here come to an end. Nothing lasts.”

In the new creation there will be unending pleasure in God. David writes in Psalm 16:11: You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Great family traditions are just a taste of those “pleasures forever.” Looking forward to those unending pleasures is reason for hope even in the midst of  unplanned changes in this world.

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About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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2 Responses to The Changing Nature of Family Traditions

  1. I guess you learned that different isn’t always bad…I just dread the day that my daughter does her own thing on the holidays and ditches us. 😦

  2. Pat says:

    Wonderful! I’m glad your Mother-in- Law is doing better! How true the joys to come cannot even compare! 🙂

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