Traditions are not limited to the holidays, but these holy seasons are ripe with traditions and rituals.
The bible is full of references to traditions and festivals. Traditions are not limited to this time of year. For instance, the annual pilgrimage out to the lake for Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. Or dressing up for the Easter. In my family, eating traditional foods from our Swedish heritage was very important at Christmas time. Perhaps, you have a similar tradition. Or perhaps, the Christmas Candlelight Service with the singing of silent night at the end and staying up to watch the Ball Drop in Times Square are beloved rituals in your house.
Whatever our traditions are, circumstances can cause us to rethink our traditions. Events getting married, having a child, losing a family member, making lifestyle changes because of health or moving far from home force you to reevaluate them. When I moved away from home to seminary, I began creating my own traditions. This practice has continued because as a pastor, because it’s a rare occurrence that I am celebrating a holiday with my family.
I have learned that creating new traditions and rituals is a wonderful exercise. You get to keep doing what you want and stop doing what you do not want to do. And eventually you find a ritual that has meaning for you. It’s not that anything was wrong with the old ritual, but this new one makes more sense in your life now. This type of reflection is very similar to something we experience with New Year’s.
New Year’s is a time of reflection, a time to look back on the year that has past and look forward to the year that is to come. We might celebrate what we’ve accomplished. Or we might be relieved that the year is over. Whatever the case, we look back and assess what happened this year. We celebrate, we lament, and we move on to what is to come.
Because of the forgiveness we receive through Jesus Christ, we can always start again. This process can even occur daily. Every day, we can hand our sins, our mistakes, and our regrets over to God. And every day we receive back goodness of God’s grace and mercy. As people claimed and loved by God, we celebrate the gifts we have received from God, we lament the bad, and we look forward to what is to come. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” A blessed and happy new year to you all!
Pastor Mary Wiggins
Mary Wiggins serves as pastor of Scranton Lutheran Parish.