Tradition can be a powerful force, particularly, during the holiday season. I love the Christmas season and my wife, my kids, and I love to celebrate the season each year by reviving each tradition, one at a time, from going to the mountains to get our Christmas tree to extending Christmas for days past the 25th of December with continued Christmas movies, Christmas music, and treats. But, lately it’s become increasingly clear to me just how limited traditions are when it comes to the big picture.
Last night we went caroling with a group from church at the assisted living center where my Dad spent a month in late 2011 during his battle with terminal brain cancer. It was there where a small group of elderly folks listened, many moving their mouths to the words of classic Christmas carols that we sang, where I couldn’t decide whether the tears coming down one woman’s face were tears of joy or pain. Did our Christmas carols bring cheer or did they revive memories of past traditions and glories that now, living dependently in an institution, are gone?
The sights, sounds, and tastes of the holiday season are great, but, for those who realize just how faulty and finite we all are, stripped down and hanging by a thread at the end of our rope, the glimmer of the holiday traditions pales in comparison to the real and lasting promise that has been made to each of us who will choose to receive the very greatest Christmas gift: peace in God. This is not peace on earth between nations, but, peace between God and his children. It is a peace that exists, and is freely offered to all who choose to accept, solely because of the grace of God who chose to make himself small and enter our world as an infant born in a manger so many years ago.
Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it.
-From Reflections For Ragamuffins, by Brennan Manning, Pp.356
I pray now, tonight, that the woman whose tears I wasn’t sure how to interpret, knows the peace of God and that there is joy unspeakable yet to come that will make the brightest Christmas light-lit traditions black holes by comparison.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”