Strange Traditions, Unchanging Truth

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

(Hebrews 13:8, NASB)

In December of 1993, I visited Germany for the first time, stepping from my comfortable American surroundings into an unfamiliar European culture. During the Christmas season, the already charming country of Germany transforms into an enchanting wonderland. I had never experienced such magical sights, sounds, and scents as I did in that strange new world.

Or maybe I should say, strange old world, because the German Christmas traditions I regarded as “new” went back centuries: real candles burning on real trees, vibrant Christmas markets peddling candied almonds and sugared stollen, a chorus of trumpets echoing through the vale, and a real goose for Christmas dinner. My German friends thought these traditions were normal. I thought they were strange. How could I enjoy Christmas without Charlie Brown, Frosty, and Rudolph? Where was Santa Claus with his flying sleigh? What about the inflatable snowmen, plastic nativities, and Christmas lights dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock”? Germany was doing Christmas completely wrong, and they didn’t even know it!

But on Christmas Eve, when I stepped out of the bustling market into a dimly lit church that had stood in that same place for six hundred years, my disorientation dissolved like melting snow. We sang “Silent Night” in its original German. The pastor read the real Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. And I heard, loudly and clearly, the unchanging truth of the Incarnation—when God the Son stepped out of the comfort of His heavenly home into our own strange, old world. For that hour, gone were the tinny twangs of unfamiliar carols, the sweet scent of spiced wine, and the light of candles flickering through frosted windows.

There was Jesus—God in the flesh—the Savior from another world who had come to save ours. Though the montage of Christmas traditions may change from country to country and from age to age, the story of the Savior remains the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).