Thursday, November 28, 2013

Traditions, Transitions and Seasons

This morning as I sat down to read my Bible, I took a hard look at the shelves in the family room. My wife loves to decorate and the items on the family room shelves change at least three times a year.

The shelves are bare as of this writing. By the end of the week the fall/harvest/Thanksgiving decorations and nick-knacks will be replaced by Christmas decorations of which she has sufficient supply to decorate the entire neighborhood. I am putting up the exterior lights and will finish that job sometime Saturday. I refuse to turn on the lights until December 1. That is my own personal tradition.

My pet peeve is those who have fully decorated homes and the lights turned on over two weeks BEFORE Thanksgiving. In the race to have the "feel good" times of Christmas come earlier and earlier (notice that Black Friday started a week earlier in some stores while other start the sales today) we lose sight of what is right in front of us. Today it is Thanksgiving. Christmas is the next holiday up.

Why do we do what we do at this time of year?  For us it is tradition and some traditions help us mark the seasonal changes of the year and also help us reflect on how we make transitions in our life as we progress from one season to the next. Changes and transitions are generally gradual just as are the seasons of the year.

 One of the traditions I sorely miss in the church I attend is the lack of religious tradition when it comes to marking the liturgical seasons. Yes, we celebrate Christmas and Easter (Resurrection Sunday to be correct). We do not celebrate the season of Advent or Lent and certainly don't take notice of Pentecost Sunday which I think is very odd for a Pentecostal church. It is neither wrong nor right, but a preference. However, it is a preference that leaves out rich tradition and history in my view.

Traditions, especially Christian traditions, remind us of who we are and tell us of the Gospel story throughout the year. This Sunday marks the start of the new church year. It is the first Sunday of Advent. It is a Latin name which means "coming".  During this time we reflect on the promises God made beginning in Genesis to send us a savior, the Emmanuel or God with us which culminates in the Christmas story with the birth of Jesus.

Advent for me also is a time to remember that Jesus is also coming a second time and will bring his saints with Him when he defeats his enemies who rebel against His rightful authority and then sets up his millennial kingdom at Jerusalem. My personal tradition is to read the book of the prophet Isaiah during the four weeks of Advent. In that book the first and second comings of Jesus are specifically laid out.

Traditions have gotten bad rap throughout church history because of how they were abused. Jesus slammed the scribes and Pharisees for holding onto the traditions of men rather than the real traditions (teachings actually) of how man is supposed to worship  God and love and honor one's neighbor. There are good and bad traditions. Keep what is good and throw out the rest. Don't miss the point behind the traditions.

Now today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. One tradition we will celebrate is having dinner with members of the family. My wife and I will be at my sister's home to enjoy food, drink, conversation and a little football. We catch up on the big and little things in life with members of our family. Sometimes that is uncomfortable.

For me the seasonal changes and liturgical calendar changes give me time to pause and reflect of where I am going and what I am doing. I have been through ministerial changes the past two years. That is likely to continue as my wife and I wait to see what new direction God may be taking us.  We know God has something different is store for us. Patti heard from God 18 months ago that  changes were coming and he was going to move us. What "move" means we don't know. We're pretty sure it is not a physical move from jobs and our home. We will wait to see what God has in store but whatever it is, we are 18 months closer to the final transition than we were before.

God bless all you who have read this blog today. May you give the Father thanks in all things through our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). He has made us new creations in Christ Jesus and part of His eternal family by faith in Jesus. He gives it to us freely by repenting from dead works and accepting the gift of eternal life found only in Jesus Christ by faith. 

Walking into a church building doesn't make you a member of God's family any more than walking into a garage makes you a car. Becoming a biblical born-again believer in Jesus makes you a member of God's family. It is personal which results in receiving God's DNA into our spirit. That is how we become new creatures in Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving! God is good!