Look Both Ways
We’ve been talking a lot about expectation during Advent—what we’re waiting for, what we hope for, how we hear and respond to God’s promise. It’s a new Church year, we await the arrival of our new priest in charge, and this week we are counting the days to celebrating the birth of our Savior. We seem totally focused on “future,” on “new,” and that’s a good thing, because quite frankly, I’m ready to say goodbye to much of this year.
But I’d like to put in a good word for “old.” (Which I am, my grandchildren tell me, but that’s a whole other Cup.) I’ve been wallowing in a lot of seasonal traditions, those well-worn activities and objects that speak of childhood, family, old hopes and dreams. The base of my advent wreath was made 70 years ago by my mother. My big brother and I alternated nightly wreath responsibilities, one of us reading a Bible passage while the other lit the candle and said a prayer. In my house today are two crèches, one from my childhood home and one from my husband’s. On our Christmas tree are ornaments from years past, rich with memory. Last night we went to the Choral Arts Christmas concert that we’ve attended for 30 or so years, and soaked up the sound of a concert hall full of people belting out “Joy to the World.” As a child, I waited until all my family was up and dressed so we could descend the stairs together singing that hymn.
Traditions such as these remind me that Jesus isn’t just coming, Jesus is with us today, and always has been. That sometimes gets lost in all this “expecting.” Advent and Christmas traditions tell of the many times and ways we first met Jesus or witnessed the faith of our families and mentors. What a gift! You and I have not been alone, even in disturbing times. Traditions, and the memories they generate, bear witness to a faith story that can wrap us in a warm blanket of peace.
Of course not everyone has such traditions. Some of us may need to carefully choose the ones that offer blessings and toss some others. And it’s never too late to create new ones. The important thing is to claim an experience as one that is life-giving, and vow to repeat it. Our God does not need reminders to be present with us, but it doesn’t hurt for us to be reminded of that fact. If you are looking for Jesus, you don’t have to wait. He’s here.
Traditions can hold the promises of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
― Gustav Mahler