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Christmas Traditions

Truth In Love 394

Listen to some of Randy Patten's Christmas traditions with his family.

Dec 19, 2022

Dale Johnson: Today on the podcast I have with me, Randy Patten, and for many of you who have been around ACBC for quite some time, Randy is no stranger to you. He’s the President of TEAM Focus Ministries, an organization that seeks to increase the discipleship effectiveness of evangelical Christians and churches through public proclamation of Scripture and private coaching. Previously, he served 16 years as the executive director of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, which we all know is now called ACBC, and he was the founding board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Randy, listen, I’m looking forward to this conversation. Every time we get together, I enjoy our time together and I think this will be a fun one. Brother, welcome to the podcast. 

Randy Patten: Thank you, Dale. It’s great to be a part of ACBC, and I rejoice at how God’s leading the organization, and it’s prospering under your wise leadership. God bless you. 

Dale Johnson: Thank you, brother. I really appreciate that. You know, I always tell people, it’s exciting for us. We stand on the shoulders of men, just like you, and we’re, we’re able to pick some of the fruit that you guys labored so hard for so many years, and I’m so grateful for that.

Today we want to talk about Christmas traditions, and this is something that Heath started that I did not want to let go, I love this time of year. This is one of my favorite times of the year with my family, and I want to talk to you about some of the Christmas traditions, Randy, that you all do in the Patten family. I want to first start with think about maybe one of the neatest or most memorable moments of your childhood around Christmas, and part of what makes it so special to you. 

Randy Patten: Yeah, I grew up in Southeastern Ohio. I’m the oldest of four children. We lived in a small home that my dad built after right after I was born. So, I’ve always been a bit of an early riser, and on Christmas mornings, sometimes I would get every real early before the others and go out quietly, sneak out to the living room where the tree was decorated, and the lights lit and the presents around it, and back then we had forced air heat out of the floor. And I’d find a register and go sit on the warm register with the air blowing up, just gaze at all those gifts and the excitement of what was to come.

Dale Johnson: Because you couldn’t sleep all night long, I can remember that. I can just envision you as a kid just sneaking into the living room with the Christmas tree, and that brings about even memories of my own. Randy, as we know, this time of year it’s a really fun time for families. It’s a fun time to be together to give gifts and that sort of thing. As we think about the real reason of Christmas with our Lord and Savior Jesus, who came to Earth. I want you to talk for just a second about the incarnation and maybe specific passages that really just help to grip your heart and grip your mind during this time of the year as you think about Christ, God coming in the flesh to save his people from their sins, what a tremendous thought. Just talk for just a second about ways that you anchor your heart and mind with Scriptures about that unbelievable truth. 

Randy Patten: Part of what helps me with this is I seek to read through the Scriptures each year, and I like to use the MacArthur daily Bible, not the MacArthur Study Bible, the MacArthur daily Bible. You know, all the Scripture points toward Christ in one way or another, and just as I’m reading, you know, the festivities of the season and the things, the way we’ve got our house decorated down and everything. It’s just those are visible reminders, but as I’m reading the Scriptures, I’m just marveling as I’m reading with fresh eyes toward Christ throughout the Scriptures, how I see it, whether I’m in Hosea right now or I just finished Daniel and talking about Christ’s return, or reading in first John now. Just all of these passages, all of that, just helps so much.

I also just keep marveling at, you know, Scripture says that God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And you can’t think about Easter without thinking about Christmas first, and I just as l revel in God’s love for me, and just the amazement of that, and I think you know that starts with focusing on His coming, the incarnation. And just that wonderful story and just trying to use some sanctified imagination to picture yourself being alongside Joseph or Mary or just all those events happening or Simeon later his statement of faith. Part of what has helped me this year. And the last couple of years especially is in my office area downstairs of the basement of our home, I’m just playing Christmas music almost non-stop, and I like particularly instrumental music, many of the old hymns but you know the Christmas, the songs that have the good theology in them, and I like the instrumental music because sometimes the vocal music is distracting to me when I’m trying to study or work. I got instrumental music going all the time, but I hear those notes, and reminds me of the words of the songs that just encourage me and encourage my delight in this time of the year. 

Dale Johnson: That’s exciting. And there are just really important ways that helped anchor our hearts and minds on Christ and the beauty of the incarnation; what a marvelous thing. Randy, it’s always interesting to think about how people celebrate Christmas. I want you to talk a little bit about the Randy Patten family and some of the specific memories we talked about during your boyhood, but I want you to talk about when the Lord blessed you with the family, you and Miss Cindy, and what did Christmas sort of look like, or what are some of the key memories that you have of Christmas time in the Patten family?

Randy Patten: Well, we have two children, Jim and Becky, and Jim was born four days after I became a pastor of a church back in 1974, and you know, life has got seasons. So, during the 12 years I was pastor of that church, the kids were growing during that season of life. Often times our Christmases were spent traveling to my folk’s home in Southeastern Ohio. Going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and being with them and the other relatives that would come in and everything, and those were happy, happy times. And my kids still remember those. One unique thing is I had an aunt who lived in Columbus, Ohio, whose name was Marge. She was a single lady, and she was very fastidious and precise in the way she dressed, but one of her idiosyncrasies was when people would say something, she would respond, “oh, really?” in a real high-pitched voice, and she was known for that expression. One of our family jokes is that we’re stopped in Columbus to pick up aunt Marge. She’s sitting up front beside me, Cindy and the two kids are sitting in the back, and Becky’s in the middle. And as we were talking, aunt Marge was telling some story, or I tell some story, and she says, “oh, really?” and I look in the back and my daughter holds up her finger. She’s counting how many times aunt Marge has said, “Oh, really?” on this trip. And so that’s just one of those happy memories that grow out of that tradition.

Later as we left the pastorate and I was serving in my work where I was a consultant to churches here in Indiana before beginning to work with NANC, we kind of transitioned and quit traveling to my parent’s home, and Cindy’s parents began coming to see us in. We stayed here, and then maybe later we go visit my parents at a little bit different time, and then now that our children are both married and have kids, they’re coming to see Grandma and Grandpa, which means they’re coming to our house. And so this is a wonderful time. We have six grandchildren now between the ages of 18 and 12, and it’s a happy time. Cindy decorates our home beautifully every year; it’s just marvelous. And one of the sad days is in January, when we finally say, “Okay, we got to take all this down,” and it’s not a happy day, but one of the family traditions is Cindy does a marvelous job buying the gifts for the kids, and figure out what would be just right for them, wraps the gifts just beautifully. Depending on when they come in, sometimes on Christmas Eve will attend a church service for either hours or one of our ACBC members. One of your students, Seth Newman, pastors real close to me, we’ll go visit his church sometimes on Christmas Eve, or sometimes we’ll just stay home and depending on when people are arriving and things.

But one of the family traditions is that kids take down their stockings. Cindy puts special things in it on Christmas Eve. And one of the things that she did years and years ago when the kids were young, she started buying them all matching pajamas, and so, each year, the kids, on Christmas Eve, pull out their new matching pajamas, run to their rooms, put them on, come out, take pictures so some of our family, happy times are comparing the Christmas Eve pictures of the kids with their new pajamas on, you know. So kids are getting to a point now where that tradition may be coming to an end. It’s getting harder and harder to get the ones that match. But that’s been one of the happy times.

And then, on Sundays, on Christmas morning, we always read the Scripture over a meal. One of our traditions is that we have the kids’ Christmas tree downstairs here. That’s really beautiful. I get to enjoy that a lot, as I’m coming and going to my office, and the kids get to open their gifts first, and we have them do it one by one and be sure to thank the person that gave it to them. And then they would usually have lots of good food and then adults sharing; it’s just a very happy family-centered time. 

Dale Johnson: That’s great. Now you mentioned reading the Scriptures; I know very common for people to read Luke Chapter 2, or are there other passages that you guys focus on Christmas morning?

Randy Patten: Luke 2 would be a favorite, and you know, maybe Matthew as well. Those are the ones we probably would talk about, but sometimes we’ve also spent time just people giving a testimony time about how Christ has ministered to them this year. How you’re growing, what you’re thankful for, the main is the giving of gifts what you’re thankful for, what Christ has done. It kind of varies; we’re not in a rut on any of that. I don’t think I mean there are some patterns, but a lot of it has been influenced by as the children have grown and are able to participate in more and different ways. There’s a time when I would hand out little pieces of paper and ask the kids to read two verses and comment, you know, we’d have six of the grandkids or as many of them as could read at the time, reading and participating. 

Dale Johnson: That’s so cool. I want you to help me to understand. From Thanksgiving, we have a traditional sort of American meal that we always do; what is Christmas meal look like in the Patten household? 

Randy Patten: Well, it’s always delicious. And if you have been here once, you’d want to be invited back. I can assure you that.

Dale Johnson: Now, is that something that you participate in? Miss Cindy, is she?

Randy Patten: Well, I’m the one who’s willing to go to Kroger as many times as needed to pick up things that are needed. But usually, Cindy and our daughter, Becky, kind of talk it through, and then Jim’s wife, Stacy, figures out what they want to contribute. And so, you know, a lot of times, it’ll be ham, sometimes, maybe turkey again because we all love turkey, but sweet potato casserole, and there will be some pies.

Dale Johnson: Favorite pie. Randy, what’s your favorite pie? 

Randy Patten: Well, my favorite pie probably be cherry or blackberry or raspberry.

Dale Johnson: Just pie in general. I love it. I’ll tell you what. That gets me excited even looking for celebrating Christmas and so much to be grateful for, and I love that you mention the attitude of just thankfulness in our hearts and what that means to you. I tell you one of the neatest things that you just described are those different seasons. You know, you have certain traditions, but some of those traditions morph and change and grow; as you know, you were the kids at one time, and you’re going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and now all that shifts as you have children in your home, they grow up, get married and start having children. And how those traditions shift, and it is a special time for us as believers to acknowledge the goodness of God in sending our lord Jesus and being able to celebrate that together as a family, and the giving of gifts, as a memory of who he is, and what he’s done. Randy, this has been really helpful. Any other closing comments, as you can think about Christmas traditions in the Patten household?

Randy Patten: Well, one of our Traditions is that as we greet people, as we’re out and about, we always say Merry Christmas. You know, there’s been pushed back against from some about saying they want to say, happy holidays and things and we try as a family. I think all of us would be telling people, “Merry Christmas,” that’s one little thing we try to do to express it is about Christmas. It’s not just a holiday, but it’s about Christ, it’s about Christ. 

Dale Johnson: Amen. It is so true. And to be honest, it makes me want to come visit the Patten household and see what that’s like going on a Christmas morning and have some pie.

Randy Patten: Your family wouldn’t let you go, but we can arrange for you to come by.

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