We are slowing marching our way into a season that is rich in tradition and celebration. In a few days we will be handing out candy to all of the scary “trick or treaters,” and not a bit envious of parents who will try to curtail their children’s “sugar highs” before bed. Once Halloween has come and gone we look forward to Thanksgiving with all of the turkey trimmings, family, football and of course naps. Then of course let us not forget “Black Friday!” This yearly retail extravaganza begins the Christmas shopping season. There are many holiday traditions such as children’s programs, caroling, decorating, gift-wrapping, as well as sitting on the lap of the man dressed in red that we enjoy during this festive season. While giving gifts has become popular regardless of any faith tradition, Christians, in particular look forward to celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus in a manger. Both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are celebrated during this time too and each has their own rich traditions that commemorate their heritage. And last but not least, we end the year by watching the ball drop ringing in the New Year and fresh starts. Each of these traditional events differs according to who we are, where we live and our family heritage.
There is another tradition that has been around for thousands of years and is still practiced today. It began with Moses giving his farewell speech to the people of Israel. He stressed over and over again how important it was to keep God front and center in their lives. We are familiar with the 10 Commandments that were given to the people but Moses’ farewell speech emphasized the importance of never forgetting God’s faithful commitment to his people. Moses gave clear instructions to Israel to ensure that the future generations would know the God of their ancestors as he said:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates (Deut. 6:5-9).
This text is traditionally meant for our Jewish friends who have had a long relationship with the Almighty but it is a tradition that I think is important for all Christians as well. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also spoke of the two greatest commandments; the first being to love God with our heart, soul and mind and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22: 37-40). This is a message steeped in tradition for Jews and Christians alike and it is up to us to continue to live, teach and model it for the generations to come. This is one tradition that will not get put into a storage box of unused decor but will be on my heart and shared with my family so that God will be ever present in their lives.