Growing up in a conventional church and a traditional family leaves a fairly deep mark on your soul. Though I haven’t sung hymns for decades, I still know the first, third, and fourth verse of many old hymns. (I can’t, however, tell you why the 2nd stanza got ignored more often than not.)
A lot of holiday traditions are permanently etched in my heart as well.
- Christmas Eve without singing Silent Night while lighting candles is unthinkable.
- I always look forward to my mom’s special Christmas cookies. (Mom, you’re late this year.)
- Whether we had a fireplace mantle or not, we’ve always hung Christmas stockings. In my family, Santa doesn’t get credit for the presents under the tree, but he’s the guy who fills our stockings with goodies.
I could go on because, like many of you, we have some wonderful family holiday traditions.
However, I’ve recently realized something surprising and a bit disturbing.
Though I love change, thrive on experiencing new things, and consider myself flexible and adventuresome, I’m essentially a very traditional person.
By definition, to be traditional means you “adhere to past practices or established conventions.” That’s me, and it’s why I do many of the things I do during the Christmas season (and beyond). I’m adhering to the past.
And for the record, I stick to a lot of traditions because they are familiar and make me feel happy and safe. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with keeping traditions—especially family ones.
However . . .
I said my realization was a bit disturbing because this all got me thinking about why I do what I do in many other areas of my life.
- Am I seeking comfort and safety more than I should?
- Do I try to control things by pulling the “tradition” card?
- As a leader, have I avoided risks by not seeing what could be possible because I’m stuck with what is?
- As a follower of Jesus, am I stuck in a rut of routine that I like to call a “spiritual discipline?”
For example, what might my next staff meeting look like if I tried something truly radical? “Hey, gang, instead of sitting in a circle and listening to me today, I want you to take a walk with the person on your right! Just walk. Talk. Pray. Laugh. Simply be friends together.”
What would my daily devotional time be like if I decided to read only one book of the Bible over and over and over again for an entire year, letting it saturate my heart and mind?
How would my relationships be different if I replaced a half-hour of TV or social media each day with a phone call or, better yet, a face-to-face encounter?
What would happen if we didn’t have church services on a Sunday (even once in a while), and instead, we sent everyone out into the community to be the church rather than just do church? Can I imagine myself saying, “Okay, folks, next Sunday, I want you to take your new neighbor or a homeless person out for brunch or coffee and just love on ‘em!”?
What if this year you took the entire family to the local mission on Christmas Day to serve the poor rather than overeat at home in front of the game?
Traditions can be good. Traditions can provide joy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being traditional. But is it possible that we sometimes get so locked into a way of doing things that we miss the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit? Is it possible that some of our traditions are hindering our emotional, relational, and spiritual growth?
Maybe it’s time to ask yourself, What if?
What if instead of only “adhering to a past practice or an established convention,” you stepped out to find something new and amazing?
What if your next best experience or encounter with God were one unconventional and nontraditional step away?
What if you set aside the safe and the “normal” for something guaranteed to drive you to your knees in desperate prayer for more of God?
At the very least, it’s something to think about, but maybe it’s time to change.