RevGalBlogPals today asks about tradition and the unwillingness to allow folks to change or let go. As I responded, it occurred to me that the inability to let go of tradition is a sign of death. When we are young and looking toward the future, we readily let go of traditions and forge our own new traditions. In fact, the young may worry older folks with their disdain for tradition. But as we face death, we hold tighter to our traditions because they represent life to us. I think this is true of organizations as well as individuals. We individuals and institutions become ossified and less flexible as we age. Organizations can live only if they return to their earlier flexibility.
"The War on Christmas" has fascinated me. For reasons that escape me the use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" has become the focal point of all that is wrong (according to some) with society. I walked out of Kroger a couple of weeks ago behind some teenagers (who are not immune from ossification of just not thinking just because they are young, my prior statement to the contrary notwithstanding). The young man was railing against the clerk who had wished him "happy holidays". I wanted to catch up with him and wish him "happy Hanukkah", but didn't. The congregation I pastor is unwilling to let go.They are too small to do what they have done before, but can't let go. Perhaps letting go is a sign to them of their death. I realize that is a contradiction, but life is paradox.
The particular circumstance cited in the RevGalBlogPals entry was a church that decided (I think) not to put up two tired artificial trees. And that generated criticism from the community. So, why do people feel free to criticize others for letting go of traditions? How does that impact them? And why this need to hang on to what are, at base, pagan traditions. A Christmas tree has nothing to do with the Christmas story. It is a pagan custom. As are our lights at the soltice. What matters is our hearts and our hopefulness in the face of God's unexpectedness.
Our God is a God who does the unexpected, the unimaginable. Our God does not seem to be bound by tradition, or by human ideas of who God is, what God should be doing. Why do we feel the need to be so bound?