I'm not sure how the tradition got started. I think my daughter first started the idea since she was the best cake baker in our homeschool family. Every Christmas we baked a small cake for a birthday party in Sunday school for Jesus. Using only half the dough, my daughter decided to use the other half for individual cupcakes for our family. She thought decorating these cupcakes for each person at our Christmas Eve dinner would be fun, and then she had an inspiration. Why not hide an uncooked kidney bean in one of the cupcakes? The person who found the bean baked in his cupcake would be the first to open his gifts at Christmas.

Even today my daughter continues this Christmas tradition. In fact, our family's Christmas wouldn't be complete without it. That's how traditions get started, isn't it? Most times, traditions make our lives more meaningful. They give us a sense of security and a sense of roots and familiarity.

Unfortunately, traditions can sometimes sap the very life from us. When we allow the traditions and rituals in our worship to replace a vibrant relationship with Christ, we quench the Holy Spirit. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this sin when He said, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9). God desires a circumcised heart that is tender and humble in worship. Paul warned the Colossians of the same problem: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

Any tradition can replace true love and heartfelt responses, but we must be especially careful not to approach our holy God only with token rituals begun by man. Christ's response to the woman at the well says how we should worship best: "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24).

Lord, forgive me when I think I've worshiped You simply by going to church or offering up a prayer. Help me remember that in the family of God, You desire a heartfelt love in my worship. I offer my love to You anew. In Jesus' name, Amen.