Good morning everyone! And happy happy birthday to Robbie!
But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
When I read the lectionary this morning my mind grabbed onto the idea of tradition. The second letter to Thessalonica throws in that line, “hold fast to the traditions you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.” The writer is looking towards the tradition of the new faith but tradition is a tricky thing, isn’t it?
Our family is big on tradition, especially around Christmas. Growing up, we knew that there were certain traditions we looked forward too. My dad collects “A Christmas Carol” versions so we knew that we would be watching multiple versions of this tale. We all have our favorites….each with our own year or description. We knew that at some point we would make cookies and decorate them…cut them out, frost them, etc. We knew about when we would get the tree and on Christmas eve everyone came over to our house before church for some food. My family would come home from church and we would get pajamas (sorry to bring it up Andrew) and then my dad and I usually went back to the later service.
On Christmas morning, we would get up to see what Santa filled our stockings with and then load up the car and go to grandma’s house where we opened other gifts. After all of the craziness of gift giving, we eat together and enjoy each other for the rest of the day.
Well, traditions are grand and meaningful and there must be room for them to change as well. This becomes more and more apparent as I get older. Christmas eve had to change drastically when I became a pastor. That is a much different night for me now and really can’t be spent in the traditional family way. I have found other traditions around working in worship on Christmas eve. We have brought in laws into the family so the traditions have to shift a little bit with how we do things, how we incorporate, and who sits where (yes, we have even traditionally sat in the same spots). And now that my grandparents are getting older, I received news last night that it sounds like my parents will be hosting Christmas for the first time…WHAT? Actually, its a great thing but it will be different than before. Traditions must change and move in order to make new memories, new traditions, and accommodate new ways of being. We create new tradition while incorporating the old. We will still do some things (I doubt A Christmas Carol is going away anytime soon) but other things have to shift and change and renew.
John Wesley outlined a way that we live out our faith by showing us four sides to interpreting it. We call it the quadrilateral. It is founded on the biblical. But the other sides are reason, experience, and tradition. We have to have it all to see our faith fully. We must interpret the bible and our faith through all of these sides in order to see a fuller picture of God. Tradition is in there. It is where we come from, where we have been, and it offers us value like no other but we also have to use our reason and our experience to inform us and change us and move us to where we are going. This is what the scripture lesson is about too. Holding on to tradition but allowing the world to transform us. Not forgetting but moving in ways God would have us move.
What traditions will you hold on to? Which do you have to let change? Maybe reflect a bit this morning on tradition in your life…how does that inform your Advent experience?
Prayer: O God, we thank you for where we come from and where we are going, renewing traditions and letting some rest. Transition with us as letting go of some things can be hard and weird but welcoming in the new can be transformative and memory filled.