I asked someone recently, “What’s your favorite memory or tradition of Christmas?” I was shocked by the reply, “None.”

None. Not one.

He went on to explain that Christmas was one of the worst times at his home. Anger, punctuated by moments of drunkenness on the part of the rest of the family were a living nightmare. He dreaded that time and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

For him, there were no special Christmas worship services, no Christ-like behavior, no positive emotional footprints.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

We sometimes forget how blessed we are. We can choose to read our Bible or not, attend worship services or not, participate in the life of our church family or not. We have these options under our noses and can easily find a place to be welcomed. Joining in singing the praises of God or praying together gives us immediate access to the throne of grace, and just by entering the church doors we are embraced into a family. A loving, accepting family—the emotional footprint of an alive-in-Christ church.

So what is an “emotional footprint?” I’m borrowing the term from Dr. Samuel Levine, author of the book, Our Emotional Footprint: Ordinary People and Their Extra-Ordinary Lives. Dr. Levine’s theory is that emotional footprints are “the positive effect we have on people in our day-to-day lives, and those recalled and cherished when we are gone.”

Our traditions play an important part in leaving emotional footprints in the lives of our family. The familiarity of traditions bring us comfort and warmth, they bond us with others, and give us an opportunity to relive the joyful memories of the past. In our busy days, they bring a sense of calm and relief. During the holiday season, we often find ourselves saying yes to a lot of good things—at the cost of important things. If you find yourself in that situation, take a mid-season pause and evaluate whether you’re leaving out an important tradition, or maybe even try creating a happy new one.

Besides, special Christmas worship services and church events, some of our favorite traditions:
-Decorating the Christmas tree while listening to With the Beatles
-Watching Die Hard and eating Christmas cookies
-Weihnachtsmarkt (Basel and Munich) and baking —and our cat running up the Christmas tree
-Being with family and friends and also opening gifts on Christmas morning and, of course, the food!

So what are your or your family’s favorite Christmas traditions? And what are your emotional footprints? What impact do you pray to have on those around you? I would love to hear about them and hear your stories.

Merry Christmas!