"TRADITION!" I have had a number of conversations lately centered on traditions. Last night my daughter and I spent some time decorating one of our Christmas trees. There was alot of tradition tied up even in that. We buy a new ornament every year. Certain ornaments are the favorites and hold places of honor on the tree. The big tree gets the special flickering flame lights while the smaller tree gets the mini lights.
Tradition(s) can bring comfort and joy and peace and hope. We have so many ornaments on the big tree. It "feels" beautiful. There are tons of memories. Some day, I will box up many of those ornaments and hand them off to my daughter for her own home and holiday traditions and she will know that there is love and a memory in each and every one. After we finished decorating, we turned off all the lights and just spent some time wrapped in the warmth emanating from our tree.
Sometimes traditions can cause discomfort, pain, or really need to be discarded. As we were going through our ornaments last night, I came across several that were Kathy and Dan ornaments...the one from "1979 Our First Christmas" and the one with the picture taken a few years later and the handmade ones that boasted our union. But now there is Kathy and there is Dan. Through twinges, I wondered to myself why I hadn't boxed these up and set them aside for our daughter. She is the only one to whom these depictions of the "Kathy/Dan" period truly now belong.
A few years back we were going through some very hard, dark times. I could not bring myself to put up all the Christmas decorations. So we put up our big tree and hung one, lone ornament on it. This ornament had a painting of sparrow with the scripture, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31) Funny, but that is one of my favorite Christmas memories...the year we were broken hearted and discouraged and the one bright beam of hope that shown through, like that one ornament standing out against an empty and stark Christmas tree...was that we were in the hands of an Almighty God who knew every hair on our heads and loved us. It was holy. And we were strengthened and comforted. I am so glad we departed from our traditional tree that year.
I think so it goes with church. Some of our traditions I value because they transplant joy and hope and peace into the center of my heart. Some don't. Some can distract. Some can actually devalue our relationships, with each other and with our Christ. In the end, traditions are just that...traditions. I guess there is value in knowing which ones to keep and which ones to let go and even in starting new ones. But true wisdom lies in knowing that traditions are not Jesus. Jesus is Jesus.
Image taken from here.