Connections 12.25.2022: Pondering Traditions

Luke 2:1-20

“…and Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them.” (Lk 2:19-20)

The other day I saw a social media post aimed at newly married folks. It said, in effect, whatever you do, you do not question your spouse’s family’s Christmas traditions. I think the post was half-joking. But only half. We all take our own traditions seriously, year after year, sometimes even when we don’t know why we do them in the first place. Our traditions shape our experiences and our experiences become our memories, and—especially at this time of year—our memories are dear to us.

When I was growing up, one Christmas tradition at my grandmother’s house was to read Luke 2:1-20 aloud before opening any gifts. Some years the reader was a grownup, some years a kid, but not a single present could be passed out until after “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart,” and “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” (Our other tradition was always reading it in the KJV!)

Keeping traditions is one way we “ponder in our hearts.” We hold close the things that matter to us—the rhythms and routines and even the words we use—repeating and re-creating them year after year because they stand for something we treasure. We “keep all these things” and we pass them down to the next generations in hopes that the people we care most about will share in our experiences and beliefs.

Surely Mary pondered the wonder-full work of God in the events of Jesus’s birth story, not just a list of details that she felt she had to re-create year after year. No doubt Mary did ponder all these things: the donkey-back journey, the overbooked inn, the cattle lowing, the shepherds’ remarkable report of the angel chorus. But “all these things” point Mary’s ponderings—and ours—not to unchangeable traditions but to true treasure: the gift of “God With Us.”

This week, we may feel pressure to uphold traditions, faithfully keeping to the routines, rhythms, and words we use every Christmas, year after year. But the point is not just to rehearse the angels’ song, to reproduce our relatives’ recipes, or even to read Luke’s Gospel at the right moment and in the “right” version. The point is to ponder, to see and hear, as if for the first time, the wonder-full work of God with us in the birth of Jesus and in own lives. We follow Mary’s example of pondering all these things so we can follow the shepherd’s example of glorifying and praising God for what we have heard and seen. Year after year.


  • What personal, family, or faith traditions do you keep at Christmastime? Which of these traditions help you to ponder the story and the treasure of Jesus? Which traditions do you find annoying, distracting, or frustrating? Are there any traditions you need or want to let go of?
  • Traditions are not only important to us at Christmastime. Most of our churches, whether “traditional” or “contemporary,” have things we do day after day, week after week, and year after year. What role do these traditions fill? Which traditions help you to ponder, to believe, and to share experiences with others in your congregation? Which traditions are annoying, distracting, or frustrating?
  • How do traditions (whether personal, family, or church) include people? How do traditions exclude people?
  • When you ponder the story of Jesus’s birth, which elements stand out to you? Do you “hear and see” anything new in Luke 2 this year? How is this pointing you to a better awareness of the treasure of Jesus? How can you continue to pay attention and ponder this even in the midst of the busyness of Christmas?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at


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