Summary: This topical sermon explores the Christian heritage rich within many of our Christmas traditions including the tradition of treats, the traditions of trees, and the traditions of treasures. Custom PowerPoint is available if you e-mail me.
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 12/11/2011
Last Sunday I shared with you a little about my Christmas traditions growing up and there are so many different Christmas traditions that most of us share in common. As I mentioned last Sunday, hanging stockings by the fireplace is a tradition that dates all the way back to Saint Nicholas himself in the third century. Maybe one of your traditions was to set a plate of cookies out for Santa and his reindeer like my sister and I did. Some families have the tradition of watching the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, on Christmas day. Or maybe you prefer A Christmas Story, where little Ralphie wants one thing for Christmas—an official Red Ryder BB gun.
Maybe you make it a tradition to curl up by the fireplace and read the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. Many people make a habit of attending Christmas Mass or a Christmas Eve service. Most of us enjoy the traditions of food and family.
We have a somewhat unusual tradition at our house. A few years ago we decided that whenever it was someone’s birthday that we would start celebrating first thing in the morning. So for my birthday and Yeshua’s birthday, which are both coming up this week, we’ll have cake and ice-cream for breakfast. In order to help the kids identify Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’ birth, we’ve made that part of our Christmas tradition as well. On Christmas morning, we’ll get up early, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, and then have cake and ice-cream for breakfast.
Maybe you grew up with some strange holiday traditions, too. Or maybe, you’re just now building the traditions that you hope with remain with your kids for years to come. This morning, I’d like to talk about three of the most common Christmas traditions and how they relate to our Christian faith. The first of those Christmas traditions is the tradition of treats.
• THE TRADITION OF TREATS
Food is an important part of any family festivity, isn’t it? And no holiday is complete without an assortment of cookies, cakes, and candies! About two years ago, Ashley, the kids, and I went to spend Christmas with my family in Charleston. There were about thirty or so aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and grandparents there and we knew we wouldn’t have the money to buy presents for all these people, so Ashley decided to bake a bunch of goodie and give little gifts bags full of treats to everyone in the family. She started baking a week ahead of time and I thought she was never going to leave the kitchen. She made literally hundreds of tasty treats—all cover in chocolate. There were chocolate covered peanut butter Ritz, chocolate cover Fritos, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered cookies, etc. The house smelled like chocolate for a week and I was her official taste tester, so I think I gain about 10 pounds that Christmas!
We’ve all got our favorite treats this time of year, but there is one Christmas treat in particular that can be found in nearly every household and can be used as a strategic opportunity to share the message of Jesus—the Candy Cane!
The very first Candy Canes weren’t really canes at all; rather, they were straight white sugar sticks often used as pacifiers for teething babies. But in the latter half of seventeenth century, tradition tells of a church choirmaster in Europe who persuaded a craftsman to make sticks of candy bent at the end to represent a shepherd’s staff. The choirmaster then passed them out as a special treats to boys and girls who came to Christmas mass.
It wasn’t until the early twentieth century, right here in America, that color was added to the Candy Cane—the traditional and most popular color, of course, being red. As the Candy Cane has evolved over the years, it has become a wonderful symbol and tool for sharing the story of Jesus at Christmas time.
First, the shape of the Candy Cane—a shepherd’s staff—can remind us of the shepherd who bore witness of Jesus’ birth. The Bible says that on the night Christ was born:
There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12 NIV)