I am on my soapbox today. This is a discussion I've held with various friends over the last few months, but Christmas got me thinking on the lines of it all over again. We enjoyed eating the pop-tarts and exchanging a couple gifts that morning, and it was spectacular to have dinner with our friends in Asuncion, but it still never felt like Christmas. Even the kids' church program seemed out-of-season, like having a July 4th cookout in the snow or something.
That made me think about traditions, and how much "what we're used to" contributes to the reality of something. Was it still Christmas, just because it didn't seem like Christmas to me? Sure. But did I get the full benefit of the holiday? Not really. I thanked God for sending Jesus, but I do that all year long anyway. I thought about the miracle of Jesus fulfilling all the prophecies concerning His birth, but I come across those scriptures in other months, as well. In my mind, I knew it was December 25, but I didn't get the joy of it in my spirit. (Don't throw tomatoes at me. I love Jesus all year long, so I didn't backslide by not feeling all tingly inside when I woke up that morning.)
Hang with me... the point is coming. In the Christian world the last several years, there has been a huge swing of the pendulum away from anything considered traditional, or "religious." There's a lot of talk about doing things just because it's the way we've always done it. If you've been a Christian in America for any time, surely you've noticed the argument over hymns vs. praise choruses. Or benches vs. chairs. Or Sunday School vs. shorter services. Or my personal favorite, the law vs. free grace. And the list goes on.
People live on both sides of this fence, either labeling all traditions as "religious" and abandoning them, or labeling all progress or change as "wildfire" and avoiding it. The idea seems to be that there exist two extremes--living by religion and living by the Spirit. And never the two shall meet. I disagree. If my entire relationship with the Lord is based on ritual and "the way we've always done it," then it's dry and in danger of missing a move of the Spirit. If I discard the traditions to flow in wherever the wind blows, I'm not stable enough to remain grounded. There has to be a balance. I heard a story once about a tree that spread out its roots far and wide and deep, but didn't reach up. It never branched out (pun intended) or grew toward the sun, so it never really served any purpose as a tree. The tree beside it decided to skip the roots and devote its energy to developing a huge billowing canopy, full of leaves and beautifully swaying in the wind. The first time a good storm came through, however, there weren't enough roots to hold the pretty tree in place, and it was ruined. We have to balance our roots and our branches. Let's flow with the Spirit, grounded in our Biblical truths and Christian heritage.
Obviously, I don't ascribe to the "stuck in tradition" movement. (Can you really call it a movement, if all it does is stay still?) I won't spend much time explaining my stance in that because most of you know us enough to understand that. My husband has tattoos, I have a nosering, we love screamo band concerts, blah, blah, blah. (PS-I can defend all of those scripturally, so don't start in on me... haha!) I also love singing hymns, I think the Lord's Supper AND feet washing are completely fine, and I don't mind going to church 3 times a week, whether I'm in pants or long shorts or a skirt. I'm pretty open to lots of things, traditional or contemporary. But I don't get the free grace thing. It's free to me, but it wasn't to Him. Jesus paid too much for that grace, for me to want to use it any more than I have to. I need a certain amount each day anyway, since I'm a weirdo. No need throwing it around haphazardly.
I believe God moves in fresh ways. I don't think that if I get a new crockpot, however, I necessarily have to throw away my frying pan. This Christmas season has reiterated that for me. Like I said, it was still Christmas all over the world, whether it seemed like Christmas to me or not, but I needed the traditions I was used to for my spirit's sake. I LIKE some traditions just for the sake of tradition. If I don't sing a hymn every service (there aren't any blue OR brown books in Paraguay), I'm not going to hell, but if I skip services to have "church at home" I do start to feel a bit out of sorts. If I decide that culturally, drinking is accepted, so I'll have a few beers with the gals at the club because "all things are legal," I'll feel even more out of sorts. Fine line. I don't want to cross it too far in either direction.
I'm rambling here, so don't think that this is to spark some long theological debate. It's just my warning to try the spirits before you camp out in either end of this debate, which doesn't seem to be going away. Oh, yeah, happy New Year!