The Gift of Tradition

Amy Clemens

Read: Isaiah 1:1-20

Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. (v. 14)

Sometimes traditions of the church can become suffocating or dreary. Even the God who established traditional feasts and holidays for his people became downright angry about the way they were celebrated. “My soul hates them,” he says, “they are a burden.”

Traditions are gifts. They can be wonderful entry points to a deeper relationship with God–like beautiful gates we can pass through and admire. But gates can keep people out too. They make a good doorway but a poor destination. In my own experience, tradition-heavy churches kept me on the fringes of faith until my early 40s, when my own brokenness and need propelled me to reckon with the triune God, differentiating relationship from tradition. I entered into life in Christ, and found it was an adventure, not boring or mundane. As C. S. Lewis wrote of Aslan the King in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

The words and symbols of our faith are prelude to a dynamic, authentic relationship with God. Advent is a wonderful time to remind ourselves that traditions are great appetizers, not the real feast.

—Amy Clemens

Giver of good gifts, thank you for the gift of rich traditions that we celebrate this season. Help us to enjoy them and teach them to our children, and use them as a means, not an end.