Dear friends and parishioners,
Advent has begun, the first candle on the Advent wreath has been lit and our accompanying prayer reminded us of God’s promise to send ‘the Saviour of the world’. The Advent wreaths in church that count down the Sundays before Christmas are one of many traditions that we enjoy, especially this time of year. At the vicarage I have begun putting the symbols on my Jesse Tree and the Holy Family have begun their journey round the house before they will finally arrive at ‘Bethlehem’ (the Welsh Dresser in our hallway!). These traditions reconnect us with our spiritual and biblical heritage as we ponder Jesus Second Coming and his Incarnation.
Traditions, whether they be in church or more generally observed (Christmas trees, turkey dinners etc), are wonderful customs because of the many positive effects that they have; they bind people together, build community, create identity and link different generations together. In these difficult times these are valuable attributes and worth preserving. However, traditions can become divisive and have some undesirable consequences. They can create barriers between people, foster an atmosphere of ‘them and us’ and become our masters that must be observed! I tried to substitute steak and chips for the ‘traditional’ Christmas turkey dinner once, the idea had scarcely left my lips before it was shouted down by the family.
According to my 19th century Cruden’s Concordance ‘true tradition’ comes from God as revealed in Scripture for the use of the Church. Tradition is the object of our faith-the preservation and transmission of The Good News of Jesus Christ. But even our Lord and Saviour challenged the traditions of his day from time to time; try reading Matthew 15 v 2 & 3 or Mark 7 v 8. It seems we must approach traditions with caution lest they deflect us from God’s true purposes. So as we make our seasonal preparations lets enjoy all those traditions that genuinely build up our faith and community.
Merry Christmas to you all,