Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Traditions

It's a funny thought to consider that all traditions were once a new idea.

One tradition most Americans (and many people around the world) connect with is "the ball" dropping on New Years Eve in New York. While we confidently look for this event each year on the television, there was a time just over a hundred years ago when it was nothing more than an idea.

And what about our religious traditions? On Sunday night I had a discussion with a pastor in my denomination who told me we are expected to have communion seven times each year. While some local churches surely observe communion less than that, there are other local churches - like the one at which the aforementioned pastor works at - whose tradition is to participate in communion every Sunday. Same denomination, different implementations of our tradition.

And while on the topic of communion, this too was once a new idea. It was implemented by Christ at the Last Supper when, gathered together with His closest friends, the Lord broke bread and changed an old tradition (Passover) to a new one (Communion or Eucherist, depending on your tradition - see where I'm going).

And so it was last night at the church I attend when I gathered together for a planning meeting. This meeting happen to fall on Epiphany - the 12th day after Christmas historically observed as the date when the Wise Men found the Christ Child. Or, as it's known in Spanish speaking cultures, Dia de Reyes. This is not a day we normally celebrate at our church, but, thanks to my good friend who does celebrate it and told me about the tradition, I stopped at my local bakery and purchased a Rosca (pictured below) on my way to the meeting.

For those of you not familiar with this holiday, according to Wikipedia, "The tradition of placing a trinket (a figurine of the Christ child) in the cake is very old. The baby Jesus hidden in the bread represents the flight of the Holy Family, fleeing from King Herod's Massacre of the Innocents. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2."

Will this event become a tradition? Only time will tell. In the meantime, what are some of your traditions?
"When the wise men saw the star, they were filled with joy. They came to the house where the child was and saw him with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their gifts and gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But God warned the wise men in a dream not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their own country by a different way" (Matthew 2:10-12).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Monica

It's that time of year when all is new and all is old simultaneously.  There is something about looking to the future that causes us to also remember the past.  The New Year is always a difficult time for me.  Regardless of how happy I am, I get lost in remembering years gone by.

God prepared a comfort for me this year weeks before I need them.  The words I'd need leaped out of the pages of Ann Voskamp's advent devotional, The Greatest Gift.  Ann quoted these words of CS Lewis in context of the story of Jonah, but they have been comforting me during these holidays

"We all want progress... [but] if you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

I've spent a good amount of time over the last few weeks thinking about this idea of progress.  Where am I?  Where do I want to go?  And also I've been thinking about the concept of turning around?  Where would I go back to?  What have I given up that maybe I shouldn't have?  A thought came to my mind this morning: Monica.

This morning I was praying for Mary, a friend from high school.  I hadn't seen Mary since I graduated, but I ran into her a few years ago at a mutual friend's birthday party.  Since then we have stayed loosely connected through social media.  Mary was a year or two younger than me, she was in the band, and she had this friend she called Monica.  Monica was, by all regards, your average teenage girl.  With one exception: she wasn't real.  She was me.  In case you're confused, or you think I've lost my mind, let me clarify.  For reasons neither Mary or I could remember - and boy did we get a good laugh trying to remember - she called me Monica.

In no way am I looking to go back my high school self.  That Amie missed out on opportunities because she cared too much about what other people thought and was too insecure about who she was.  But there was a part of her that was amazing too: she was passionate and optimistic about what life held for her.  That alter-Amie (the Monica, if you will) is long gone, but perhaps there are things I can learn from her if I remember a little more about who she was.

"Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, as the Son of Man will spend three days and three nights in the belly of the earth. One day, the people of Nineveh will rise up in judgment and will condemn your present generation—for the Ninevites turned from sin to God when they heard Jonah preach, and now One far greater than Jonah is here." (Matthew 12:40-41)

And just like Jonah, when we face that turning point in our lives, when we've been going the wrong way and know we need to turn around, when we are ready to finally go the direction we are supposed to, don't be surprised if you find yourself sitting in the belly of a fish for a few days.

God, I pray it be a metaphorical belly, and not a literal one.  Although a literal one might not be too bad because I'd have some great writing material when I came out...