Traditions are Mores Than Meet the Eye

I had lofty plans – sixteen points in a week. As my quip at the top of my blog proclaims I am pleonastic. A very gracious friend describes me as his verbose friend. It is the preacha in me trying to break out. (Taking a deep sigh) Sad to realize today that I will not be able to cover all sixteen points this year. There is always next year; might be a worthy New Year’s resolution. Still, most of the points in our discussion of traditions are so closely related that the other points not mentioned can be inferred from what already has been discussed. Perhaps the greatest inference in our dialogue is what I will end with today.

 8. We need to take ownership of our traditions:

This point in many ways is what this whole discussion has been about. Traditions mishandled can be dead and devoid of joy. Traditions that we own and recognize their value are time redeemers and relation builders with joy abounding in overwhelming quantities and of the purest quality. It is for this reason that in general I do not say you should observe this day or that day nor do I say you should observe it this way or that. This discovery of what traditions to observe and how to observe it is part of the joy of learning to live life to its fullest. You must discover what events are worth emphasizing and how they should be emphasized.

There is a freedom when you realize that traditions are done correctly by a myriad of ways. For example, perhaps you have gathered that my family is very intentional during the Christmas season with nightly devotions and repetitious activities that we do year after year. This is one way to do a Christmas tradition. Maybe your Christmas tradition is to discover a new way every year to commemorate and remember. Perhaps your repetition is one of discovery and challenge in seeking new ideas to signify the importance of Christ’s birth.  In my experience there is a tradition that we typically approach this way – The Lord’s Supper. We look for new and innovative ways to remember this most holy of acts so as to not lose the significance to mere external acts which do not reflect the inward person. Doing so can be Christ honoring.

In this way, then, owning a tradition is very much about seeing the value in the way you do something. It must be yours. It is one thing to appreciate a tradition passed down from one generation to another like a prized family recipe. It is another to accept it out of duty and not delight. We will find ourselves begrudging the source that should be the center of our affections. This turns traditions upside down. We should fight against such a lazy approach to life. There is no shame in putting your personality into your traditions. This act highlights the unity that occurs between you and your object of affection. Even more so, it reveals your investment and brings your heart’s hope into a culmination of acceptance. This is when we know we have ownership, when we have accepted our traditions into the deepest marrow of our whole being – heart, mind, body, strength, soul.

But ownership is not merely deciding how you want to do a tradition, but also deciding on what traditions to observe. As I said before, in a broad sense ownership puts the onus of responsibility in picking which events are worth commemorating on you. Still, from a biblical standpoint there are certain traditions that  are commanded in Scripture such as the Lord’s Supper, and meeting with your Lord through prayer and God’s Word on a daily basis. I take this for granted and assume you do to. Outside of these there are the two obvious ones that most Christians have some kind of biblical anchor within their practiced traditions – that being Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are two if I dared to suggest we need to really work on from a biblical worldview – they are Easter and Pentecost. My personal experience has been that Easter is simply a family gorgefest and not much else. It is a commentary that should pierce us to the core if this is true of us for there is no more important day that we commemorate as Christians than the historically grounded bodily resurrection of Jesus the Christ. From my perspective, after the two holidays that celebrate the giving of Jesus (Christmas and Easter) there is no greater day worth commemorating than the giving of the Holy Spirit. These then would be where I would encourage you to consider in the building of your traditions. But I am trying not to be pleonastic here so I will move on.

Examples of ownership then can take countless forms as wide as your imagination and experience. For example, why do we not have Happy Rebirthdays as Christians? Is not our spiritual birth more important than our physical one? But you can also do things that tie into your ethnic heritage or the heritage of those people groups who do not know Christ. Maybe your Christmas tradition is to imagine what these people groups Christmas traditions would look like if some blessed missionary graced them with the great and joyful gospel. Now that would be a tradition worthy of investigation. The point is that our lives are begging for this simple practice. God engineered us to be changed by traditions. The onus is then on us to take this reality and make it a part of our life.

Have a Very Joyful and Christ Exalting Christmas!

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