When Two Become One: Holiday Traditions 

This Christmas will be my daugher’s very first. Before we had her, my husband and I discussed our favorite Christmas traditions from our own childhoods, and talked (argued) about what we wanted the holidays to look like for our children. It turns out our experiences and traditions were very different, as were our hopes. 

I have a hunch we aren’t the only ones with this problem. 😉  Luckily with a little negotiating, we seem to have found a balance we can both be happy with. 

Fortunately for all of us, this season is about SO. MUCH. MORE. 

A dear friend of mine, Eileen, sent me an article she wrote on this very topic, and has been so kind in allowing me to share it here! Her experience and thoughts are inspiring, and I must say, eloquently written. Enjoy this guest post as you practice your own traditions this holiday season, and remember why you practice them in the first place. 

As I was first approached to write this December/Christmas article, I was asked what traditions were passed on from childhood and what traditions we added on as we’ve come into our own family. What a difficult question for two people who came from two totally different worlds, two different religions, two different perspectives on what Christmas means to us. My husband was brought up Muslim and didn’t celebrate Christmas at all. I was brought up Catholic with common family traditions, but never really grasped why we did what we did. As we got married, now two people with a renewed faith in Jesus Christ, we were faced with the question of how we would define a Gbajabiamila Christmas. 

Well, 14 years and 7 kids later, I have to say that there are few things that have remained consistent. Food choices change from year to year, from turkey, to fried chicken, to tamales, to hamburgers. Sometimes I decorate the tree. Sometimes the kids help. Sometimes the kids do it all by themselves (except for the top 1/4 of the tree that they can’t reach yet!) Sometimes we have guests, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we wrap gifts, sometimes not.

Amidst all the “moving” Christmas family pastimes, there is one that stands out as solid and unchanging. Every Christmas, our family will watch the movie, The Nativity. Yes, a simple flick on the birth of Jesus.
Although maybe too simple or anticlimactic for some, I know for me there is nothing that is more impactful than this.

This movie looks through the the lens of Mary (a 13 year old girl who finds herself pregnant, yet has been with no man) and Joseph (a man who finds out that the one betrothed to him is with child, but not by him.) This is a story of two people who put their trust in what God told them – not understanding everything, but trusting nonetheless. 

Please put up your feet and sit a bit as I set the scene for you: It was a year of the census, when everyone had to go to their hometowns to “check in” and be counted. This meant that Joseph, Mary, and the little one in her womb would have to make their way on a long journey to Bethlehem. Not by plane, nor car, nor even horse and buggy, but on a donkey and by foot! Initially, it would seem like a nice leisure, one-on-one trip between a young engaged couple. (Sounds kind of romantic to me!) However it didn’t stay like that for too long.

Days would pass and Mary is still riding side saddle on the boney back of a donkey. Ouch! Labor is already hard enough as it is! And what happens next? Most of us know the story. No hospital, no doctor, no doula service, no hospital bed, no epidural! Just a frantic Joseph trying to find a “delivery room” while Mary bobbles in agony with every increasing contraction. 

Can you just imagine? The urgency of needing someone’s help but receiving none, the insensitivity of others around them, the feeling of rejection and loneliness, the guilt of not having a comfortable environment for God Himself! As no other option, Mary’s “room” consists of scratchy, pokey hay, the stench of farm animals and all their “glory,” the noise of cows and sheep as their happy home is being intruded. The stable fills with the screams of Mary pushing a baby out of her tiny body, and the nervous coaching from Joseph, “Push, breathe, push!” Even the shepherds got wind of the news (from angels, mind you!) and were rushing over to witness the occasion. Oh the whirlwind of it all! 

Then in one small moment, everything was stilled. The Star of David shining right over them, tears of joy and relief came over her, awe and amazement came over him, and all looked on in wonder as Savior of the world entered it! From that point nothing would be the same. All of those present were quieted at what had just happened. No one knew exactly how things would change, but all knew it would. 

That’s when I, too, allow myself to enter into the scene to stop all that is going on around me. At that moment, I quiet my own soul from the world: the hectic schedule of a family of 9, the daily, numerous calls for “mommy,” the anguish of the times we’re living in, the uncertainty of what our children will face in their future. My own whirlwind of sorts, you could say. This scene of the movie always leaves me with such an overwhelming sense of peace and assurance to keep on pushing forward in this life. 

Oh for the moment to be still, to gaze at the little baby who would grow up to die and take away my sins! To be at peace knowing the One who would fulfill prophecy after prophecy in the Bible is here. To know that Immanuel, which means “God with us,” is with me now. The “child born unto us, the Wonderful Counselor, mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace;” the one of whom Isaiah prophesied years ago, will make all things new. This is my blessed assurance that in the end all will be well. 

So as the busyness of the season goes on around you, when your plans don’t go as intended, when food, or gifts or relationships get you frazzled, when life’s worries and disappointments ever increase in your world today, when your phone rings, your texts beep, your emails pile up… think upon this scene, (go ahead and watch the movie!) Be still, quiet your soul and know that He is God! 

Eileen Gbaja-Biamila


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  1. Ashley Eslinger

    Thanks so much for sharing! A great reminder!

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