The question believers are faced with, is how can we save & continue to grow & develop our key values & pass on the sacred stories & celebrations that were given to us to feed us through life & to light our way in a world, that through a changing culture, dilutes the traditions & blurs the Holy liturgy of our lives?
Across the world, regardless of the geographic location or what the religion may be, or what the culture is, or what the predominant race or gender may be, etc., the month of December is known as & subsequently often observed as, the month of celebrations. The celebrations whether secular, cultural, or based on deep theologically based beliefs, may be referred to by different names such as; “Winter Solstice”, “Hanukkah” or “Christmas”, etc., but they all generally include special music, special food, decorations such as various forms of light & some type of gift giving & receiving. Sadly, the meanings of many of the values & traditions of the various December observances have been so enculturated that it seems like at the current time, most people just refer to the December celebrations as; “the holidays” or just “Merry Christmas”, perhaps not even knowing what those words mean, as the practices & values of the various traditions are gradually assimilated & the celebration becomes just another big party. There is no doubt that some of the original traditions & themes still remain. However, with the enculturation that exists, the main themes that are the focus of the celebrations & hold them together, often are diluted & with that, the major stories that grounded the celebrations at their start, lose some of their life changing & life feeding purpose. The question believers are faced with, is how can we save & continue to grow & develop our key values & pass on the sacred stories & celebrations that were given to us to feed us through life & to light our way in a world, that through a changing culture, dilutes the traditions & blurs the Holy liturgy of our lives? The answer to that question is to re-new a steadfast spirit within our hearts & that requires help from God, the giver of all new life, who promises to awaken us, lead us & guide us into the Light of the Holy Spirit. The dilution that occurs through enculturation is particularly sad when the celebration is focused on spiritual beliefs that are grounded in deep, Biblically informed theology & history.
A primary example of this dilution occurs in the season of Advent which is frequently forgotten & skipped over. Advent is the season of reflection & preparation that leads up to the full celebration of Christmas. Biblically speaking, Christmas is one of the most Holy days on the Christian calendar. It is a time when Christians, after preparing their hearts to receive God’s promised gift of new life given with the coming of the Messiah, pause to observe & to celebrate God’s presence with us, as He blesses us with the Holy gift of Himself, fully & freely given to the world, with the birth of the incarnate Christ child, “Emmanuel”, which means God with us. The celebration of Christmas in its pure, undiluted biblical account, reminds us of God’s steadfast presence & unconditional & unending gift of Agape love. The birth of Jesusis a Holy gift given by God & the Holy Spirit that revealed God to us & forever changed the world.
~Posted by Rev Kathryn Bindig, MDiv. MS; Pastoral Care Minister with assistance from Rich Muscatello; Director of Business Development & Strategy