December 23, 2009

The Trappings of Tradition

I bet your family has some crazy traditions that have either already happened or are about to during this time of year. Care to share any of those? Only a couple came to mind for me and my family... family always goes to church on Christmas Eve and then orders Chinese takeout. We eat that with sparkling grape juice in fancy glasses. wife's family all gets the exact same pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve, wears them to bed and wakes up Christmas morning to her mom making crepes. They proceed to wear matching pajamas throughout the majority of the day.

Thinking about this over the past couple weeks has made me wonder if traditions have actually trapped the real meaning of Christmas. I don't think traditions are a bad thing, but I do think they need to point us to something bigger than the tradition itself. Is it possible that we have made Christmas more about traditions and less about God's gift to mankind? If Christmas is simply about traditions, we should call it "Traditiomas", dress-up like elves and give ourselves another excuse to go door-to-door asking for candy.


Parke Ladd said...

Hey Matt,

Right on man. I think most of us are trapped in traditional ways of doing life regardless of whether it's Christmas or not. Many times traditions keep us from experiencing the Lord in new and fascinating ways and really delving into who he is and what Christmas really represents.

Thanks for the words of wisdom.

Kathy said...

I see your point, but depending on the tradition they can help bring comfort and familiarity to our busy lives, bring family together, and even remind us why we're celebrating. Wearing matching PJs doesn't take anyone away from God, and my Christmas tradition gets my parents to church the one and only time of year they attend, so is that really off-focus?

Matt said...

I think tradition is what Christmas is all about. The fact we lose sight of what Jesus has done for us doesnt really depend on the time of year. The entire biblical concept of Christmas is skewed at its origins anyway. We celebrate the birth of Christ at a time the its generally agreed He was not born.

I'm going to go the opposite direction and say i think so many Christians focus so much on the "birth" of Christ and trying to force everyone else to believe the same thing they lose site of why Jesus came here. He came to give us the freedom to enjoy a time with our families and have goofy traditions that He can look down on and be pleased with.

Matt Lipan said...

Parke Ladd: thanks for the read and comment.

i agree that a lot of us get trapped by doing things the same way over and over, and get confused when we call it tradition. funny how attached we can get to our traditions.

i enjoyed your post about the same topic. thanks for being willing to share.

Matt Lipan said...

Kathy: thanks for the read and comment.

i agree with you that many traditions can serve to bring families together in different and fun ways. i think the issue becomes when we make the tradition an end in itself and lose the greater meaning of family, friends, faith, etc.

i hope your parents enjoyed church on Christmas. thanks again for sharing.

Matt Lipan said...

Matt: thanks for the read and comment.

i agree with you that we lose focus on Christ regardless of the time of year. a couple thoughts in response...

-it is not the Bible that skewed the concept of Christmas in December. we have our friend Emperor Constantine to thank for that.

-i would also mention that the "concept" of Christmas is not about a specific day or time but rather the gift of God's son. this is what Christmas is all about, not traditions.

-interesting thought that Christians focus too much on the birth of Jesus and attempt to force others to believe that Christmas is about the significance of the birth of Jesus. i think it would be hard to debate that that is the actual reason behind Christmas.

-i would have to disagree that the reason Jesus came was for us to spend time with family and enjoy traditions. while i'm not saying He is against those things, i don't think that is the reason He came to earth.

-i'm not sure that Jesus is pleased by traditions. i think He is pleased when we remember Him and keep Him as our focus.

just some thoughts. thanks for being willing to share a different perspective.

Matt said...

10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

I wont debate on interpretations, but this is the passage i was referring to. God came to save the us. Duh. But really what does that mean? Why did God save us? Its a question that doesnt really get asked a lot. But I suggest that God saved us so that we may have Life. Real life. Experience love, family, God, people. Why are we here really? To save everyone? Well why is everyone else here? So that we may live.

-i'm not sure that Jesus is pleased by traditions. i think He is pleased when we remember Him and keep Him as our focus.

this is why i say he is pleased with tradition. Yes God is pleased when we obey him. But if we are to view God as "abba" or "father" and i think about what would REALLY please Him? Is it my son cleaning his room like he is supposed to? Or is it watching him live life to full. Watching him experience God and experience life. Watching him reason through situations. This life cant be about JUST "remember Him and keep Him as our focus". What would be the point of us living?

Im not saying that we shouldn't do that by any means, but that inst what life is about. If it was we would all fail miserably.

the Wesleyan quadrilateral.
Scripture, Tradition, Experience, Reason.

If this is how we discern truth then there has to be some truth in tradition. If not to say that tradition is necessary so that those who come after us may have a better life than we did.

I hope that last part made sense I'm having trouble putting what I'm thinking to words.