Monday, December 16, 2013

Breaking Tradition

A young newlywed was planning her first big family Christmas dinner and told her young husband that she needed another pan for the ham. He asked her why she needed two pans. She pondered this and replied, "I really don't know. My mom always cut the ham in half and cooked it in two pans. I'll ask her why." She called her mother and asked her why she always used two pans to cook the Christmas ham. Her mother said, "You know, I don't know. Grandma always used two pans so I did too. I'll call her." So the mother called the grandmother and asked, "Mom, why did you always use two pans to cook the Christmas ham?" The grandmother replied, "Because I never had a pan big enough."

Tradition. Why do we do the things we do? Are some of our traditions like the two-pan-Christmas-ham...we do it but don't know why?

This year is the second year in our new home. Last year I was so excited with all my new decorating space, that I decorated every nook and cranny. I pulled out the family heirloom-the old manger scene, (and I do mean old...most of the sheep have had their legs amputated by now and are usually in need of some prosthetic device to prop them up) and put it on the same table it's always been on. The same gold spray-painted macaroni wreaths with the kids' pictures in the middle were hung on the tree, even though said children were out of the house and had their own trees. I turned a large shelf into a pseudo-mantle. All in all, it was wonderful. Traditional. New house, same old stuff.

This year, something changed. Who was I doing all this for? The kids come over on Christmas and don't even really look at the tree. Brian and I are the ones who have to look at the decorations all month, and I'm the one who has to put them all away! 

I had always wanted a Christmas tree decorated with silver balls and red bows. So I ditched the homemade decorations, the decorations that people had given me, all of those things that had sentimental value, and bought some cheap silver balls at Wal-Mart to add to the few I already had. I added those red bows, and some silver and red ribbon with a big bow at the top, instead of an angel or star. It looks pretty. Sterile, but pretty.

I haven't put out any other decorations. I just haven't felt like it. Not even the old manger scene... "Mangy People," as I've come to call them. I'm not sure if I want to. It may be time for a new one. It might just be time to break tradition. 

Some traditions are good, especially if you have young children. Rituals are passed on, lessons are taught, legacy continues. Traditions are comforting and comfortable. But when tradition becomes something we do out of a sense of obligation, it might be time for a change. Too often we hold on to "things" because of the sentimental value. We look at it and remember the person who gave it to us, the circumstance behind it and the feelings it evoked. But "things" can clutter up our homes, and "things" can clutter up our minds. Aunt Agnes has been gone for 20 years, but we're still hanging up that ugly wreath she gave us because it brings back fond memories (or not) of Aunt Agnes, even though we hate it. It's okay to give it away, or even throw it away. No one has to know. If you want to remember it, take a picture. Start a scrapbook of those "tradition" pictures. You could even display the scrapbook during Christmas. Get creative. 

Don't let traditions that become obligations bog you down. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17). Jesus came to set the captives free (Is 61:1) from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). Jesus wants you to be free from the laws and bondages of traditions if they are holding you hostage. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that you throw every tradition out the window and say, "I'm free! No more Christmas traditions for me!" I'm simply suggesting that if you are doing anything for the wrong reasons, or there is no joy in what you're doing, maybe it's time to re-evaluate that tradition. This is a time of joy, not of heaviness! Maybe you can fit the ham in one pan and start a new tradition! Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Receive your King with joy!

Blessings Along the Path,

Song(s) of the Day:
Tradition (Fiddler on the Roof)
(Fiddler on the Roof is a great story about breaking old traditions, making new one, and how those choices affects the family as a whole---you can watch the movie in its entirety for free on Youtube if you have the time) 
Freedom Reigns (Rita Springer)

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