Oh how times have changed. In but a generation, Westerners have become so busy with technology that we barely have time to talk together. Recently I was at a youth meeting where I watched 12-16 year old kids, sitting in a small group, within 3 feet of each other, texting each other with great delight rather than talking. This is amazing to watch really. Of course, we have seen radical changes in communication due to technology, though the technology is not evil…but somehow, we need to find a way to reconnect to things that matter most.
A Christmas Reminder
In so many ways this was the grayest of days. I (Dr. Stan) was not yet a twinkle in my parent’s eyes this Christmas Eve, 1951. My parents, Ron and Louise DeKoven, thought for sure that the sleepy little town on the Oregon coast, with is ideally pastoral beauty, would be perfect for them and my then 3 year old sister, Rhonna, to celebrate Christmas. The fact is, Christmas can be problematic for many under the best of circumstances. In this case, memories pleasant and desperate abounded for both parents. My parents came from divorced family systems, and divorced parents made for anxious or disappointing holidays. Promises made but rarely kept, presents given without personal care, meals devoid of genuine affection rob the delight of the season. This Christmas would be different, or so my parents hoped beyond hope.
The news they received was devastating beyond comprehension. As a junior enlisted man in the American Navy, my father’s paltry paycheck was not worth mentioning. For some unknown administrative reason the little check they expected wouldn’t arrive until after the first of the year. My parent’s life had seen many rough spots, but this seemed to be an all-time low. The most heart rending thought for this new family became a disparaging reality…no Christmas this year.
As Christmas approached, the situation became more desperate. The food supply had diminished. The cupboards were bare. My parents own version of the story tells it best.
“I went to the cupboard, hoping to find at least something that symbolized Christmas,” my mom stated with a sense of deep and resigned disappointment in her voice. “The cupboards were bare except for some cookies, cocoa and milk. Not much, but it was all we had.” My dad continued, “My hurt and sense of inadequacy, combined with feelings of hopelessness were immense. In some since this trifling list of sustenance was like a ‘last supper’, as the flour and water of the Shulamite woman.”
Though not particularly religious at the time, a firm believe in God was a part of the family circumstances. It just seemed right to them to do something “religious” for Christmas.
My mom made hot cocoa and put out the cookies. My Father lit a candle. My sister, mom and dad sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. As they sang, their tears of sadness began to turn to hope. Somehow, in the midst, there seemed a presence of peace that neither had experienced previously. What had begun as the worst of days had ended with the hope that God, wherever he might be, both understood and cared.
Each Christmas Eve, my family will gather again to celebrate with wondrous birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. There will be no doubt the normal business of the holiday as we share goodies, presents and the like. Yet, before we proceed too far, the family will bring out the cookies, hot chocolate and the candles. Since we are all Christians now, we will pray, read Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, and finally we will sing Happy Birthday to our Jesus. As usual there will be little said, but the tears of joy will be felt by all. For we will remember, the tradition that was established many years ago, and repeated every year since, is a proof to us all that Jesus is truly the Christ. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is still with us no matter how desperate. Our circumstances, how hopeless our lot seems. “Becoming poor, he became rich, that we who are poor in spirit may become rich through His marvelous grace.”
Creating New Traditions
One additional tradition that many families have shared over the years is the playing of games as a family. According to Dr. Sylva Rimm Ph.D,
Board games are an effective tool for family communication. It’s easy to make conversation over a board game. Games set up a relaxing atmosphere, so laughing and sharing stories about school, work, friends and life in general flow easily from parent to child, and child to parent. The security that family play provides to children and the manner in which family fun alleviates tension are only the beginnings of the perks of playing board games.
In addition, she outlines the following benefits of playing board games with your children,
- Board games increase attention, listening, and concentration skills.
- Board games enhance vocabulary.
- Board games encourage higher level thinking skills.
- Board games teach good sportsmanship.
How much time does your family spend communicating with each other? Do you find that modern day technology is replacing family interaction in your house? If so, how is it affecting the family as a whole? According to Jim Taylor Ph. D in Psychology Today:
Children are instant messaging constantly, checking their social media, listening to music, surfing their favorite web sites, and watching television or movies. Because of the emergence of mobile technology, these practices are no longer limited to the home, but rather can occur in cars, at restaurants, in fact, anywhere there’s a mobile phone signal.
So how do we combat this growing trend in family divide to recapture interpersonal communications and enhance family bonding? Creating personal family traditions, including family game nights, is just one possible option.
Remember the family from the Midwest that we introduced you to earlier? They became intentional about creating family interaction through a group vacation. This included planning and cooking meals together, playing games, and sharing of stories from the past and creating memories for the future. What can you do to create lasting memories and enhance family communication? We have a special Christmas offer for you and your family. Watch your inbox for more information.
Dr. Stan with Walk In Wisdom Ministries