I’ve always seen myself as a tradition-hater. However, what I have found, is not so much that I hate tradition, but rather I hate doing anything, for the reason of, “that’s the way we’ve always done it…so, that’s the way we continue to do it.” It seems meaningless, pointless, and shallow. The other thing I have found is that when one usually crosses the boundary of that reasoning, you are tremendously frowned upon, simply because you’ve thrown a kink into everyone else’s plan of doing that tradition with you – you’re a heretic! Rarely is it seen from the other side, that while it is true, you are throwing a kink into everyone else’s plan, everyone else is asking you to celebrate something with them, in their fashion, in a way that has become meaningless to you.
Ever since I can remember, the only reason I needed not to do something, was to find out everyone else was doing it. This line of thought lead me to believe I was just a tradition-hater. In fact in recent years, this idea of hating tradition began to scare me. It started last Christmas (2008). Nothing was different, it was the same Christmas that I had celebrated for years – a house full of family that I deeply love, friends that I deeply love, good food, presents, and the like. But, I walked out of that Christmas saying, “I hated Christmas.” I loved the season, I loved the days leading to it, and the days following it, but as for the 24th, 25th, and 26th – I hated it. Now, before you label me as a scrooge, let me explain. I did NOT mean I hated the meaning tied to Christmas, rather I hated how we celebrated Christmas. It didn’t work for me anymore. For a few reasons:
- If I were to take out the present giving and receiving, then it was nothing more than a family dinner that happens 3-4 times a year.
- The presents made me feel, that in the name of Jesus we were bowing to the idol Materialism that had created a facade of need and love – heck, I can give a gift any time I feel like. It just seems with all the money spent during Christmas, a family my size could do something pretty tremendous for people in need if we pooled that money together, or even enjoy each other in an unorthodox way – i.e. – going some place you’ve never gone.
- It was stressful – arguing over when we were going to eat, frustrated if someone showed up late, some family member waiting till the last minute to buy gifts, stressing over what we are going to do after, and who was going to do what with who, etc, etc …I figured if there was going to be this much stress in a holiday, let’s at least make the stress worth it – and can I say, for me, stressing over presents for kids and people who don’t need them, the right food at the right time, the perfect pictures, etc, did not seem like something I felt was worth stressing over. The next time I felt this, was Thanksgiving 2009 – again, same Thanksgiving as every year – same food, people, and place, but the meaning and reason for me was gone.
Before I go on, and sound like I am being judgmental, let me say this: “I am NOT telling you that you shouldn’t or should continue to celebrate holidays and traditions the way you always have – I have no right to do that, in fact it is wrong?” What we are instructed to do is, challenge each other, to make sure that whatever we celebrate and however we celebrate, that it is done to the acknowledgment and glory of God!
I am not a man who attempts to go things alone, rather I seek out advice from those I deeply respect and who are willing to think deeply about and out of the box on issues that we have traditionally and blindly accepted. In reference to all of this, I had a friend of mine tell me:
I would encourage you as a man to create new and exciting traditions that your family enjoys, and know that you have the perfect freedom to do just that…On a personal note, I have been convicted myself that we do not enough focus on the entity of God and Christ and I have lately been under a huge weight of responsibility in that I have not doubled, and tripled my husbandly and fatherly duty of creating a Christian culture within my home…In my conviction, I have been convicted that our holiday’s and celebrations do not have a more Godly focus…So I am actively engaged in creating a more Christian observant tradition to counter the things this author is ranting about.
Tradition Creation is what I am getting at. The first time we did this as a family along with our smaller community of friends, was about 4 years ago – we started what we called a Modern Passover. Now, if anyone who understood or knows what a true traditional Passover is, and for that matter takes it very seriously, they would probably say, that to call what we did a Passover was at best to do dishonor to the name, Passover, or heretical. Why? The only thing that was included in our Modern Passover that even kind of resembles a true Jewish Passover was lamb. We told the Story of the Exodus, the Story of Christ, and then related it all to our stories, but outside of that, the dinner looked much more Arabic or Middle Eastern, and there was no reference to things like bitters and the such, but for us, it was deep, it was meaningful, and it was connected…I say that to say, “I seem to do this stuff out side of our normal traditional holidays (i.e. modern passover), but what about the holidays that others rely on you for…”
So for my family, what does this look like? I don’t know yet! For Christmas of 2009, we started the change, in that we dedicated the 23rd and 24th to me, Sarah, and the kids only – no one else – and you know what, I LOVED it! In fact, it made me more ready for a bigger Christmas day, but for me I needed that time with just my kids and wife to think about the Christ who came to this world for me. Though, I am not sure fully what this will all look like, I do know this, I really plan on Thanksgiving/Christmas 2010 to look very different than Thanksgiving/Christmas 2008 and 2009. Will it throw a kink into other people’s plans – maybe, I hope not, actually I hope that they would, with us, challenge the status-quo, and create a new tradition, or maybe even a DIFFERENT tradition, but one that helps them to more deeply recognize, embrace, and dive into the Story of God. It may mean, that we don’t get to celebrate together for the entire day, as what is meaningful and convicting to each may be different. It may mean we attempt to form a hybrid…I don’t know, we’ll see.
So, you are thinking, “Why the heck are you talking about Christmas and Thanksgiving and Holidays in April?” Good question. I am part of a church plant that doesn’t do anything for tradition sake, at least, we don’t do the ‘how‘ of anything according to tradition, for the sake of tradition. So, this Easter we didn’t spend the money on pastel matching clothes. We didn’t do some big overpriced Easter Pageant. We didn’t pull out our Bibles to attempt to put on a new spin to our Easter Message. In fact, I told someone the other day, there are two messages I hate to preach: (1) Christmas (2) Easter. Why? They intimidate me! True story. How, can Matthew Hansen, who is a limited, finite, sinful creature, with a limited vocabulary, come close to relating to you what actually happened on those days at the depth they deserve – I can’t. Now, hear me, this is ME. This is US. I’m not putting down Pageants, Pastels, and great Easter Messages, I’m just saying, there are others throughout our city who did all these thing and did them in an amazing fashion, so why do I need to try to do the exact same thing – so we didn’t. So, we left our Sunday morning open so people can celebrate Easter any way they want – Easter Egg Hunt, go to a traditional services, shoot Easter bunnies for rabbit tacos (we are in Texas), go see a Passion Play, however they want, then we did something a bit unorthodox, we, in the words of Jen Hatmaker, we brought “church to those least likely to feel comfortable at one…” We dined “with the homeless, and shared communion and worship with them” in the evening. Was it different? Sure. Unorthodox? You betcha. Did we do it, because that is the way it’s always been done? Not at all. Did we do it because it is the new cool missional thing to do? HECK NO! Do we think everyone should do it this way? Nope. Anyway, this has had me looking at my life and asking, “Why do I have the traditions I have, and based on that answer, is it time to change them up and create new traditions?”
My challenge to you: Is it time to do away with, add to, or re-create traditions in your life that may have meant something 10-20-30 years ago, but are now done for the sake of doing? You will stir up a mess, but I can promise you, it will be a mess wroth stirring!