Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tradition and the "Happy Christmas-Tree Farm'

Wow! Guesting on a live talk show is way different from recording in advance. But I'll write about that later, when they send me the pictures and have the show posted on-line.

For now I'm thinking tradition. You know, the things that happened in the past that still have important meaning attached to them and we have a hard time replicating today.

Fact is, I think we try too hard. If an experience was great then celebrate and enjoy - but it doesn't mean we have to go at it exactly the same way for the remainder of eternity! I'm thinking about Christmas, of course. I've come to believe that - so long as we have the essential elements in place - enjoying the now makes a lot more sense. We can go about our preparations the same way, and we can include all the familiar practices, and we can honor the thread of Gospel narrative that knits everything together... but it makes no sense to painstakingly replicate the past when it turns out that "here" is where Christmas so resoundingly resides.

Here's a short story about tradition that we really enjoy:

One Christmas, when the children were very young, we answered an ad from the “Happy Christmas Tree Farm”. The trip to pick up our tree was a nightmare of whining, complaining, and fighting. The experience of cutting the tree was worse. Then the drive back involved no less than three incidents of “We’re pulling over to the side of the road and we’re not going anywhere until you stop fighting.”

We skipped our dinner treat, the tree fell off the roof twice, and by the time we made it home I was ready to use the thing for firewood.

“That’s the last time we go anywhere more than two miles away to cut our own tree,” Rebekah said. I wholeheartedly agreed. The next year I intercepted the “Happy Christmas Tree Farm” flyer and dropped it in the trash. I must not have buried it deep enough, because the children brought it with them to supper that night.

“You lost our invitation,” Andrew said with a look of anticipation all over his nine-year-old face.

Rebekah and I did a double take. “I thought we’d support the Boy Scouts and pick up a tree at the ball field,” I offered.

“We can’t do that Daddy,” Naomi chimed in; "We go to the farm."

Andrew nodded in agreement. Little matter that we’d only ever gone to the “Happy” place once, and little matter the experience was an unqualified disaster. The children sealed our fate with a time honored appeal.

“But we always go to the Happy Christmas Tree Farm,” they said in unison. “It’s our family tradition.”

The traditions we have grown over the years are ours. They’re not British, they’re not American, but they are “Derek, Rebekah, Andrew, Naomi, Craig, and God” ones. That’s my family, that’s my experience of Christmas. And it’s an experience cradled securely in the context of God’s overwhelming love. It’s a basis for tradition that I am proud and happy to share.

Honoring our faith traditions is a must if we are to know Christmas peace of any substance. If we don’t have faith traditions deep in our experience, then it’s incumbent on us to add them. Otherwise our practices will simply be those pushed on us by the world of commerce and want, and that’s not a message designed to bring us any closer to God

1 comment:

Andy said...

Our kids think once is a tradition as well!