We are rapidly coming (or for some already entered) into some of the heaviest time of tradition in the calendar year. For many, it starts with October observations. For others, it starts with Thanksgiving. For others still, there is Christmas. The list of Christian and non-Christian observations is pretty long. A “high-altitude list”: Yom Kippur, All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, Day of the Dead, Reformation Day, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, sometimes Ramadan, and many others. Oh, then New Year’s.
Sometimes observing one of these out of sequence (i.e., starting Christmas decorating and music on November 1st) creates a little bit of tension. This is actually a good thing. One of the problems that Jesus was confronting was how traditions had become disconnected from intent. Sometimes the tradition, such as washing 7 times, is a minor issue. Other times, such as when “dedicating” one’s wealth to the temple (corban) rather than taking care of one’s family, tradition becomes a problem.
For many centuries, the “mainstream” church has had a church year. The church year begins with the 1st Sunday of Advent. Advent ends with Christmas. Christmas (the “season”) ends with Epiphany (The visit of the Magi). Then we have some Ordinary (i.e., numbered weeks) time. Then Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, the Easter season, which ends in with Pentecost. Anyway, each of these is intended to provide some Christian and spiritual formation, which is why much of the church has maintained it. The more Evangelical molded church has begun adopting some of these “seasonal” periods. This is a good thing, for these are good traditions…as long as they are not disconnected from the why.
Traditions do not have to be bad. In fact, we hope they are not. Yet, the tension of introducing, maintaining, and even abandoning traditions needs to always be there so that we don’t lose touch with the why.
Paul notes that he was heavily invested in traditions. All of his traditions were an attempt to honor God, but God was often lost among the rules. Yet, that does not mean all the traditions were bad. In fact, many of the traditions (and rules) give us guidance as to how to appropriately walk with God and others. Many of these traditions also teach us theology and about what God has revealed to us about God.
As you begin your seasonal traditions (even the food choices for Thanksgiving), give some deeper thoughts as to the “whys” of your traditions. You may discover something far deeper than you expected.
1) How do you keep the “whys” of your traditions alive?
2) What are important aspects of traditions for and to you?
3) Is it unreasonable to seek God in all our traditions?