Why is it that when we speak of Christmas traditions that we get all warm and fuzzy? Christmas traditions speak of continuity, family, warmth, memories, security. For me, it's remembering my family going to Central Park in Pampa, TX each Christmas Eve and walking through the life-size progressive story of the nativity and listening to the story at each stop. Then we'd drive around and look at the Christmas lights on the houses. We'd end up back at our house where we'd read the Christmas story out of Luke 2 and open gifts from one another. Tradition. And sweet memories.
But why is it that when we speak of tradition in the church, it's another feeling altogether? I believe it's because we equate tradition with legalism. So many of the church's traditions are tied up in legalism and not the Word. For instance, the Baptist church has the tradition that we don't dance. Where did that come from? Certainly not the Bible. In my research, I found it began in the 40's (or maybe even the Wild West Days) and I'm guessing it was a reaction to the type of dancing and the sensuality of it (or being done in a dance hall). To ban it was the Baptist's leaders way of keeping people from sin. But, of course, it didn't. Legalism only causes people to want to sin. Tradition does not equal legalism. Tradition doesn't have to be scriptural (looking at Christmas lights), but it shouldn't be contrary to scripture (don't dance). And I believe the younger generation needs to realize traditions in the church are good--they bring stability, fun, and make memories. Likewise, the older generation needs to be willing to change and broaden traditions--and certainly not become so entrenched in tradition that we can't change!!
But back to the dictionary's definition of tradition. When we understand it's the way we pass down our belief system, it becomes something to embrace. Before the written word, passing down beliefs orally used to be the only way children learned what their parents believed! It was important to tell the stories. It still is. In fact, a friend shared with me that he believes that's why video games are so popular. They tell a story and you keep working to finish that story. Kids are innately curious about our stories. My grandchildren always want to hear stories about when I was a little girl and what happened in my life. We need to be sharing those stories.
But more importantly, we need to be sharing the stories of the Bible. I'm concerned that our children (and some adults) are spiritually illiterate. They haven't heard the stories. They don't even know the basic stories like David & Goliath. We need to embrace tradition and hand down our beliefs. Otherwise, we all lose.
I am married to Andy Dietz, pastor of First Baptist Church, Groom, TX. We've been in the ministry for over 35 years. We have four grown children and 10 beautiful grandchildren! I write to share what God is teaching me (it's a continual work in progress!) and to open the window to my life and allow you to look in.