I was in the store the other day when the topic of Christmas came up. I remarked that we can’t start worrying about Christmas yet, until we get past Thanksgiving. The clerk responded, “No one pays attention to Thanksgiving, especially retail stores.” I think that is sad.
Our world today seems to want to turn its back on traditions. Traditions are viewed as archaic and out of date. We are only interested in what is new and trendy. If it is not innovative or cutting edge, then it isn’t worth our time. Traditions are passé.
Several times last week I was reminded of the real value of traditions. We all have traditions that are a part of our lives. Some of these are specifically family traditions, some are community traditions, and some are religious traditions. Traditions help us remember what is really important. Traditions interrupt our frantic routines and invite us to reflect on where we have come from and where we are going. If we see traditions as a nuisance, we will miss out on what they have to offer to us.
Throughout the Bible, God used traditions to remind His people who they were, where they had come from, and where they were going. For example, the Day of Atonement was designed to remind the people of Israel that they were the people of God, that their sin was an offense to God, and that God had provided a way to redeem them from their sin. The Passover was to be celebrated every year to remind the people of God’s deliverance and His great love for them. Even the Sabbath was intended to be a remembrance of God’s provision for His people. These traditions were to be celebrated in very specific ways. They were the same every year. They were intended to remind the people of some very important and specific truths.
As followers of Christ, we too have traditions that God wants to use to remind us of our relationship with Him and His great love for us. When Jesus transformed the Passover meal into the Lord’s Supper he instructed His disciples to do it as a remembrance of Him.
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
1 Corinthians 11:23-25
The celebration of Christmas and Easter are important acts of remembrance. We can complain about them, or we can try to “update” them. But by doing so, we will remove from them the reason they exist; to remind us of what God has done for us. The simple story of Christmas, the dramatic story of Easter, don’t need to be updated. They need to be entered, examined, and embraced. For all the trappings society has wrapped around these annual celebrations, the message is still there for those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. They call us to remember.
We need traditions because we so quickly forget. We are so caught up in the present, in what is new and innovative, that we lose our perspective on life. We need traditions to remind us of where we have come from. We need traditions to remind us who we are. We need traditions to remind us to whom we belong.
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- Psalm 103:1-2