Timeless Traditions for Today


I admit it. The more life I experience, the more I appreciate family traditions from the past. And this appreciation is especially evident during the holiday season.


Being raised in a liturgical church that observed the church calendar, we did not experience a month-long gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas like many families. Instead, Advent preparations quickly followed the Thanksgiving feast, officially launching the holiday season in our home.


Unfortunately, in those early days, I overlooked the deeper meaning of celebrating Advent. To me, it was similar to Lent as a precursor to “the big day”. However, over the years, its place as part of our holiday tradition has grown more meaningful (and a welcome respite from the commercialization of the season).


Advent is a time of preparing for the coming of the Lord; in fact, the word in Latin actually means “coming”. Of course, your observance might be less formal than what I experienced in my youth. But whether it is in the form of a calendar, a Bible reading plan, special prayers or a candle-lighting tradition, this is a special time for the family to remember the true reason for the season. And even if your younger family members seem to miss the profundity of the experience, take heart. Some day they might just continue the tradition in their own families.


This past Sunday, November 27th, we began our Advent celebration. If you are interested in observing Advent in some form this year, it’s not too late to begin. In fact, I trust you will find the time set aside for reflection on the Lord’s coming birth and the fulfillment of the Father’s promise well spent. And as you do, consider these words excerpted from a favorite, familiar Christmas hymn:


O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.


Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


Credit: Words: Latin, twelfth century; trans. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), 1851