Christmas Traditions: Family First?

Christmas has come and gone for 2010 and I hope that your celebration was as wonderful as mine. It’s such an awesome holiday because it’s the time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus and His mission to humble Himself and become our Savior. I’m sure you have some wonderful Christmas traditions. But, if you are LDS, you have probably never experienced my very favorite Christmas tradition—going to church for special Christmas Services. At my church, it doesn’t matter what day of the week Christmas falls on, as a Church Family we gather together to worship and praise our Lord and King!

To be honest, at first I couldn’t believe a church would actually hold services on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. I still remember my first Christmas attending the Lutheran Church I’m now a member of. I was actually appalled when I heard of these meetings! I thought: “Doesn’t the Pastor know that Christmas is family time? Everybody knows that family comes first!”

When I brought this up with my Pastor, he asked me where I got that belief from. After thinking about it, I realized I had not gotten this from any of my Bible studies, but rather it was a relic of my Mormon upbringing.

Every Christmas Eve my Lutheran Church has a special candle-light service. Then Christmas morning we meet to once again sing praises to God and hear a message from our Pastor. During the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations it is an awesome reminder of the reason for the Season.

Attending these two Church services every Christmas season has become the highlight of my Christmas, and the most important tradition for my family. It is here that we are reminded of our Savior’s purpose for coming to earth: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

As a Mormon, I grew up believing in “Family First”. The belief that families come first is at the core of Mormonism. One practical example of this foundational LDS teaching is seen at Christmas time. Special Church services are not held for Christmas. In fact back when I was LDS, if Christmas happened to be on a Sunday, every church service was canceled. I knew the reason why, because I had been taught it all my life—Family comes first!

In Mormonism, nothing is more important than our eternal families and church was canceled so that families could spend time together on Christmas. My brother explained to me a few years ago that now if Christmas falls on a Sunday, the First Presidency leaves the decision of whether or not to cancel church meetings up to the Stake Presidency.

Today I am so thankful to know the truth. Our earthly families are not supposed to be first in our lives—God is! Our Heavenly Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost are to be the very center of our lives. Jesus taught us this truth when He said:

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

Does this passage make you feel uncomfortable? When I was LDS it always bothered me. Truthfully, I didn’t know how to love Jesus more than my children. It was when I came to know the true Christ that my heart understood in a way that changed my life. You see, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that my Savior had gained the forgiveness for all my sins! I tested this Spirit, making sure that this belief was in agreement with God’s prophets and apostles. To my joy, I now know that my Savior has gained the forgiveness for all my sins. John the Beloved testified:

“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6)

Because of what He did for me, I am pure and holy in God’s sight! In thankfulness, every breath I breathe is devoted to serving my Lord and Savior. It is only because I was forgiven much, that I can love Him so much (Luke 7:36-43). My new life’s motto is “Jesus first!

Through faith, I’ve been given a new heart to love others, just as God has loved me. And, I have been richly blessed with a family of five girls. My daughters and step-daughters are all grown up now, and I have been blessed with two amazing grandchildren. I pray that every member of my family will see my love for my Savior, and through my example, be drawn to love “…him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”