Thoughts for the advent season: Timeless
The holidays are a natural time for reflecting upon our traditions. I recently rediscovered an article that speaks of a balanced approach to the time-honored, deeply-cherished traditions of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
It was written by author Betsy Childs Howard:
“My mother recently gave me a rocking chair that has been in my parents' attic since I was a baby. She knew that it had been in the family for years, but she wasn't sure just how old it was. We called up an older relative who informed us that it had belonged to my great-great-great-grandmother, and possibly to others before her. All of a sudden, I felt like I had a treasure; the chair's value was not tied to its function or appearance but to its age and connection to my ancestors. I brought it home, wiped dust and years of dirt off of it, and polished it. The wood took on a warm glow, and beautiful hand-carved designs emerged from obscurity. Then I re-covered the threadbare seat with new fabric. The result was a piece of furniture that I believe most people would find beautiful, even if they didn't have a personal connection to it as I did.”
“This got me thinking about antiques and our attitude toward them. Furniture actually becomes more valuable the older it gets. People with a taste for antiques like the look of them as well as their rarity, and older furniture is often more solid than what we would buy today. Yet even though an antique aficionado would like the fact that this chair was old, few would have criticized me for cleaning the chair up. Although the dirt and dust and stuffing poking through the cushion all made the chair look older, they kept the chair's true beauty from shining through.”
“I believe there are some major parallels in how we present and approach our ancient faith. Some do not appreciate that we are a part of a story that has been building for thousands of years; they are so concerned that Christianity be perceived as relevant that they want to somehow dress it up to make it look modern. They fear that because the words of the prophets and the teachings of Jesus will be offensive in the twenty-first century they must paint over these facets of our faith to present a product that looks new, pleasing, and functional. Others go to a different extreme, insisting that traditions be maintained for their own sake, delighting in any song or sermon that sounds old, whether or not it actually stirs any soul to worship. Bent on preserving, they forbid actual use, much like the antique collector who has no concept that chairs were made for sitting.”
“The Christian and Jewish faiths are founded upon a promise made to the patriarch Abraham thousands of years ago. Our faith is old, but its age is part of its beauty, and even its relevance. The questions of the human soul are timeless, and the answers of the gospel are eternal. Just as I didn't have to keep my rocker in disrepair in order to appreciate its age, we do not have to arrest our worship in some other century's traditions and applications to be faithful. Nor should we ignore the beauty and depth of the legacy that has been handed down to us, seeking newness for the sake of newness or mistakenly believing that words which have been testifying powerfully for centuries could have somehow lost their relevance. Sometimes we may have to scrub off some cultural grime that has obscured the true loveliness of the gospel. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and he is a beautiful savior. We should do everything in our power to help others appreciate that beauty...”
This holiday season let’s continue to respect the rich diversity represented in our culture and, at the same time, boldly and unapologetically celebrate our own faith tradition.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!