“…Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught…”
2 Thessalonians 2:15
Focus of the Month: Traditions
Tradition. A first mention of the word, I hear Tevye singing in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” The papa, the mama, the son, and the daughter all have their respective roles. That was tradition to Tevye. How could those traditions be broken or roles be changed after so many years of everything being the same?
As I let the word “tradition” sink in, I reflect on my family’s traditions. It’s not a far walk. My husband and I have been repainting our family home. As I rolled the hallway walls with fresh vintage blue paint, my mind drifted back to years gone by…
We purchased that home from my grandpa, who had purchased the home from his in-laws, who had purchased the home from their cousins. The house has been in my family since it was built in 1910. Its been HOME to multiple generations of my very own family. The walls resound of family history and stories. So many family traditions began right there!
I remember as a little girl surprising my grandma with flowers every May Day. My mom remembers sitting on the front porch with her grandparents, sipping lemonade and discussing economics. There’s a story shared and passed down about my great-grandma’s rocking chair by the telephone table. But the most significant of memories are the family meals – the feasts – we have enjoyed through the years!
Every Thanksgiving, my grandma would line tables from the dining room to the front door to accommodate seating for every member of our family – and any extras invited to join our festivities. Each table would be covered with a linen cloth. The good dishes and silver were brought out. The knives were sharpened as to cut through the turkey so divinely. The aprons and drying dish towels were laundered, pressed, and ready for use!
It seems every year my Great Aunt Irene would cut her finger while carving the turkey with those freshly sharpened knives. Every year my grandma would be ready to give the warmest hugs, no matter the chaos in the kitchen. Every year each member had a specific task or duty to fulfill to contribute to the success of the great feast. Every year amazing food and loving fellowship was enjoyed. Every year we were secure in the love, care, and provision of not just our family, but of our God.
In thankfulness, praise, adoration and awe – every year a blessing was prayed over our gathering, our food, and our family; and glory was offered to our faithful God.
My husband and I continued that tradition. Although there were no more turkey-carving-cuts to be experienced by my Great Aunt Irene, and no more hugs to be enjoyed from my grandma, we made new family memories and carried on the tradition in the same family home. As always, tables filled the home to accommodate our large, loving family, and a blessing was spoken and shared aloud as the entire family circled around the home holding hands.
A lot has changed through the years. Like Tevye, part of me wants to hang on to the old “traditions.” However, the faces around the table change each year. The roles in the family gradually mutate. No matter how much we want things to stay the same, some things will always be subject to change.
As I reflect on these memories, and the reality of change, I am reminded of another feast…The Last Supper. The breaking of bread by Jesus with the disciples. The Last Supper was not the only time Jesus ever broke bread with the disciples. They were accustomed to eating together and celebrating the Feasts together. The Last Supper is poignant because it was at this Feast that the revelation of Jesus as our Passover Lamb was made evident. The Last supper brought change.
No longer do we celebrate the Passover, but we celebrate Communion. The Passover Feast was a tradition to remember God’s deliverance of the Israelites from bondage. Jesus is the Passover Lamb – the Messiah. Communion is now the feast Christians participate in to remember Christ’s sacrifice, to examine our own lives, and to celebrate our deliverance from sin.
No matter if your church celebrates and partakes of Communion once a week or once a month, it can grow monotonous, familiar, and rote – if we allow it. We are individually responsible to keep the revelation of what Jesus has done for us alive, real, and true in our own lives. No matter the tradition, each time we partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we are to examine our own lives, our placement in the Body (our own local church), and judge ourselves – correct ourselves – repent and realign ourselves with the purpose for which God created us individually. It is a time of intimate fellowship between us and our Creator. And it is a time of sustenance, help, counsel, mercy, grace, forgiveness, redirection, purpose and life.
Similarly, because we celebrate Thanksgiving every year, it can grow mundane. The food can become boring…the same mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole… It is our own individual responsibility to keep the purpose and the relationships alive. No different from Communion. It is our own individual responsibility to examine our own lives and to see where and how God has fitly joined us – not just in the Body of Christ, but also within our own family units. The tradition of family feasts is very much like the tradition of “suppers” Jesus enjoyed with the disciples.
As you prepare to gather with your loved ones this season, don’t approach the tradition of gathering as rote, mundane, routine, boring. No. Instead, really meditate on your purpose within your own family unit. What can you bring to help those in your gathering? Do you need to repent of past mistakes? What counsel, what mercy, what grace can you bring to the table? How can you encourage others in their purpose? Prepare your heart and your mind before the event and be ready for how God leads you to be His voice, His light, His love in the lives of your loved ones.
Don’t be like Tevye, stuck in the same roles every season, every year. Allow and welcome change that comes as your family grows and matures. But still carry on the traditions of breaking bread – enjoying feasts – with your family, as you share the light and love of Christ.
Holding Fast to Hope,
Scripture References: Luke 2:42; Exodus 12; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34