I was flipping through channels the other night and come across a documentary on PBS. The subject was the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” “Fiddler” first hit Broadway in the 60s and, evidently, has had a strong global following ever since. While the television program throughly dove into the making, producing, and longevity of the production, they spent a lot of time discussing one of its universal themes – tradition.
If you’re not familiar with the storyline, it is about a Jewish community, specifically one family, facing immense pressure to change from both within and without. Generational traditions are being tested and tried. Many of the traditions bend. and some of them break beneath the weight of changing times, political oppression and the threat of violence. Yet, there are traditions that remain.
I think most of us would easily agree that tradition is a good thing. It is something that we hang our hats on, we find stability within and maybe even place our identity by.
Traditions vary by family. Traditions may be regional or cultural. They may go back generations and we may not even know their origin. Others we set intentionally, trying to establish memories and add to our family stories. Yet, tradition is universal.
This time of year – this season of holidays – is full of tradition.
This year, traditions seem to be under attack. It’s hard to know what to do . . Do we stay home? Do we have people over? Do we go over? Do we postpone?
Yet, in a year when so much has happened, so much has already been cancelled or postponed, these holidays and these traditions seem to be the very things we all need.
This year where we have dredged through and seen very little of any of our plans come to fruition, surely our holiday traditions can be counted upon to give us some sense of normalcy. Yet, can we?
The last several Thanksgivings, we have journeyed to Ohio to spend the long weekend with family there. Yet this year, due to “the virus,” we thought it best to stay home. I began looking forward to gathering our Tennessee family in our home. My fabulous cook of a husband and I were planning the menu and scouring old Southern Living recipes for a side dish that wasn’t a starch and was, hopefully, green. Our traditions would look different, but similar.
Then my brother-in-law’s “test” came back positive. They will not be attending. They will be quarantined. Would anyone be able to come? Do we want anyone to come?
My expectations of tradition for Thanksgiving are up in the air. I don’t know what to expect, or how to plan, or even the way to reassure my younger daughters that it’s still going to be a good holiday.
In the Bible, God commanded His people to set up traditions. Whether it was how weekly Sabbath was to be remembered or how annual events were to be celebrated, God established traditions for His people. (Some of these traditions were highlighted in the Fiddler musical and many are still practiced today.)
God wants His people to remember. He wants us to commemorate His faithfulness. He knows we need traditions. He knows we need them to remember. – But just what is it we are supposed to remember? What is it that we are supposed to be celebrating?
Think about it . . if the holidays are all about family and we can’t be around family – then there isn’t much point in celebrating. If the holidays are to celebrate the goodness of mankind, we don’t have to look far to see that there isn’t a whole lot of that going around. If the holidays are for us to stop and take stock of the what is innocent or good or right in the world, then again, it seems hard to celebrate when everything seems dirty or wrong or bad all around us.
We can find good if we look. We can muster ways to push through. We can put on a good face and put up a good fight to at least try to keep up appearances. But, sometimes we can’t. Somedays we don’t want to. Some things will be different no matter what we do.
That family member is gone. The funds of last year are not here this year. A tradition that we’ve come to depend upon for more than we should cannot be repeated.
Our ability to enjoy and celebrate this year – of all years, may only come from our ability to remember what it is that we are really celebrating.
Just as the Israelites celebrated Passover to remember how God brought them out of Egypt, our motivations for celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas should this year -more than ever be about God’s goodness in providing us His Son.
Maybe this is a good year to reevaluate our traditions. Why is it we do what we do? Does it point us to the real reason of the season or is it something that has preoccupied us from it? Have our traditions inadvertently become our idols or do they reveal our idols? What exactly are we celebrating?
I think it’s okay for us to be disappointed to see traditions be changed or broken this year, but let’s not waste this opportunity to learn the lessons that God may have for us along this way.
This is how I am praying anyway. I am feeling the disappointment, but choosing to look for God’s purposes in all of this. If He is not wasting these days, (which I believe to be true then who am I to wish them away.
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