When we talk about traditions the holidays naturally come to mind. I think back on many traditions fondly. One of my happiest memories as a child was Christmas Eve in South Philly. My sister Karen and I set off to John’s Bargains store and brought a game. We played the game most of the day to help make the time pass as we were eager for Christmas day. Karen and I, both in our 60’s now, still talk about that tradition and the happy memories it gave us.
As we grow older our traditions change. Being the oldest of 8, I am quite a bit older than some of my siblings. Christmas Eve develop into a time when the young ones would go to bed and the older children helped my parents play Santa. My dad loved to decorate and I don’t think there was a spot in the house that did not have decorations. He even had a platform with trains, houses, stores, churches and so much more. The tree was decorated Christmas Eve and we helped with toys that needed to be put together.
Life brings changes and our traditions are no exception. When we marry our traditions change as we decide what family we’re going to spend each holiday with and unfortunately that can at times turn into a tug of war for the grown children. Love ones passing and divorce change traditions and it can be a difficult adjustment.
What did Jesus have to say about traditions? Jesus observed traditions as he celebrated the Jewish holidays but he also blasted others. In Luke 11, we find Jesus ready to dine with a Pharisee. When the other Pharisees saw that He did not follow the ceremonial washing they rebuked Him. Jesus ripped them a new one! I’m paraphrasing what He said but he basically told them, you hypocrites concern yourselves with being clean on the outside but inside you are dirty. Among other things He told them that they burden the people with their man made rules, their rules are hard to bear but they themselves would not lift a finger to lighten the load.
On another occasion in Luke 14 we see Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. Once more we find Him at a Pharisees house for a meal. The good ole boys were there as they were hoping to entrap him. There was a man with dropsy. Jesus asked them, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Though they did not answer Him, we know what they were thinking. Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way. Jesus asked them if they had a son or ox fall into a well on the Sabbath would they not pull him out immediately. Yet again, silence. Jesus tells them in Mark 7 that they set aside the word of God in order to keep their man made tradition and regulations.
There are times when the expression “rules were meant to be broken” speaks to me. I believe this was the mind-set of the woman with the issue of blood. We can find her story in Luke 8. She had a hemorrhage infirmity for 12 years. Her doctors took all her money even though they could not cure her. She settled it in her heart if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. In those days a woman in her condition would have to shout unclean, as she walked through the streets. If she touched anyone she could be stoned. What a horrible and lonely life she must have lived. She got to the point where she did not care what the tradition or law was, she was going to reach Jesus no matter what. I can almost see her, so weak from losing so much blood but she dragged and crawled on the ground to get to Him, knowing when she did, her suffering would be over. We know with all those people about it would be impossible for her not to touch someone but she pressed on and made it. As soon as she touched Jesus, He felt it and asked “who touched me?” The disciples answered, (paraphrasing once more.) Seriously????? Are you joking Jesus? All these people around you and you’re asking who touched you, really? The woman admitted it was her. Did Jesus reprimand her, and tell her she broke tradition or law? No, He told her, your faith has healed you. She took the risk, broke the tradition, touched the hem of His garment and was healed.
So is tradition a bad thing? No, not at all. Paul tells the people in 2 Thessalonians 2 to hold fast to the traditions they were taught.
Now that the Christmas season is upon us, let’s reflect on our traditions. Christmas is not even mentioned in the Bible. It is a man made event. I am not saying it is wrong to celebrate it but we need to remember the reason for the season. Jesus is God, who left his throne to be born as a baby, to die for us, be raised from the dead, restore us back to the Father plus take back all the enemy stole from us. It is ok to enjoy the gifts, food, tree, and family/friends getting together but keep Jesus in it. Let us not make our man made traditions a burden on anyone. It is wonderful for family to get together but for the most part it can be impossible to get everyone collectively. I understand there are some family members that hog the holidays. Try to come up with a fair solution but take into account you can’t make everyone happy and that is ok. When my daughter was young, I started my own tradition. I made the decision to stay home but anyone was welcome to come to our house for dinner or just visit. It worked quite well and I did my visiting during or after the holidays.
Praying you have a blessed Christmas. For those who have lost love ones and have gone through divorce, I pray that the peace of God would comfort you. Psalm 34:18 tell us, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Enjoy your traditions but don’t be fearful of creating new ones. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!