Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent 2013


             Early in our marriage Gaye gave me a ceramic piggy bank as a Christmas present.  Odd, admittedly, but I wanted one and I continue to cherish it.  Within several years this piggy bank became the centerpiece for one of the Christmas traditions we practiced when Emma was young.  Throughout the year I would bring home rolls of quarters or dimes or nickels (depending on how the cash flow was going each payday) and Emma would help me "feed the pig."  By December, the pig would be full and we would empty it onto the dining room table and the three of us would roll all of the coins back up.  This became our money to give away at Christmas and Emma would help us pick the recipient project.  Given Emma's love of books it almost invariably turned out to be a project the locally-owned bookstore near us in Louisville, Kentucky had of providing children's books to organizations that worked with at-risk children.  Emma always helped pick out the books; after all, books for children were something she knew a great deal about!  For Emma it was a lot of fun.  It was for Gaye and me too.  But more than that, it became a way of growing generosity and an awareness of the needs of others in Emma.

Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof gives us the oft-quoted lines: "And how do we keep our balance?  That I can tell you in one word -- tradition...  Because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do...  Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof."  For Christians whose weekly traditions include Sunday School and worship, prayer, hymn singing and fellowship with other believers, our lives do sometimes seem less shaky.  These traditions serve as venues for hearing from God and learning who God is, and because we regularly put ourselves in places where this can happen, it does happen.  For many of us these are inherited traditions, instilled into the very marrow of our bones at a young age and they have formed who we are and how we see ourselves in God's world.

But if traditions reveal to us what God expects of us, can they also help us get there?  As Christians we believe that God wants us to "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18) and the Spirit working in us can produce certain fruits:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).  But how do we open ourselves up to the Spirit's working so that these fruits can grow in us?  Perhaps new traditions can help.  Just as Emma grew in generosity from "feeding the pig," opportunities abound for us:  growing in kindness from participating in Congregations in Service, growing in patience from playing with children during our nights hosting Interfaith Hospitality Network, growing in faithfulness from serving on a committee or task force, growing in gentleness from visiting folks in the hospital, growing in joy from regularly greeting visitors each Sunday.  Tradition is another word for habit.  Our habits form who we are.  This Advent season may we be open to new habits that provide the opportunity to transform us into who God knows we can become.

- Wyc Rountree


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