BY DR. STEVE DUNN
I was up early today. 5:55 to be exact. Lately that has been “sleeping in” for me. Spending this particular Christmas at home of my daughter Christi and her husband Tim in northern Kentucky. A little after six, I heard the first stirrings of my grandson Jake, a 5th grader, who will have the responsibility of waking everyone “when it’s time.”
Long ago our family began a Christmas tradition that I have discovered is now part of the Christmas tradition in all the families my adult children have established. Before we open the presents, my wife Dianne will read to us from the Nativity account in Luke 2. Then we will thank God for the incredible (and most costly) gift we have ever received–the gift of his Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
And then, we will open what this year appears to be a “ton” of Christmas presents (the evidence you can see under their Christmas tree).
Last night we kept another tradition, attending a Christmas Eve Service together. Not returning to a church that had been our family church forever (my family church closed almost a decade ago) nor in a small church steeped merely in nostalgia, but this year in a large mega-church quite different than where we would normally gather but in a place but with a group that shared our deep-rooted believe that the Birth of that Bethlehem Baby brought hope, eternal living hope to our world.
My adult children have added to their family traditions – interactive Advent calendars that they use to teach their children and variations on “elf on the shelf” that break the routine of ordinary days by adding little adventures to their day.
Like many others who still value “family” or have families to value, we will intersperse the days with phone calls to loved ones. Those calls used to go to parents and grandparents of our families, but that category is down to one set. Dianne and I are now the grandparents, so our calls go out to children and siblings spread across the land. Still, this tradition persists in our lives reminding us of connections formed first in the birth canal and shaped by shared lives.
Tradition sometimes gets a bum rap in our ever-changing culture. It’s given the labels of progress-impeding or relevance-ignoring. Sometimes, tradition is indeed an justification for not being open to the new thing that God is doing in our lives or in our world. But tradition can also be the anchor that keeps us from shallowly accepting the newest fad which will soon disappear and then struggling to find a new anchor as the rip tides of our this present age send us careening into dangerous waters.
As a Christian I reminded that tradition can also keep us connecting to something deeper. A faith that is ancient, that was conceived in the mind of God at the foundation of the world. Not the empty ritual practiced by so many but the vibrant faith that comes from a religion rooted a relationship that sustains us in all seasons and all decades. Not the faith that worships the forms but the one that serves the Person, who is the living God,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1.1-5,9-14
I pray that each of you are blessed by and keep those traditions that provide a richness rooted not in the passing, but in the eternal.
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