Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Pause In Advent #2

Pause in Advent Logo from FlossEarlier this year, for the first time in my life, I had an ear infection and was deaf for a few weeks. It made me think a lot about how we hear,mis-hear or misinterpret words.I decided to make my Advent Pause Posts about ‘Homophones’ – those words which sound the same, but have totally different meanings.

rite [noun] A body of customary observances characteristic of a church or a part of it. Ritual behaviour.

right [adjective] in accordance with what is just, good, or proper, according with truth.


rite don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking my high Anglican incense-swinging, chasuble- wearing brethren here. Because I know that even a dyed-in-the-wool, washed-in-the-blood, dunked-in-the-water Baptist like me is just as guilty of being trapped in tradition, and of being hidebound by adherence to rituals sometimes.

No, I just want to challenge our slavish observations of certain traditions, which can be particularly bad round this time of the year. Do we do this thing ‘because we have always done it’ or because it is an important part of our acknowledgement that God became Man and dwelt among us?

I have this ‘thing’ about beginning the Christmas Morning service with the hymn “Christians Awake! Salute the happy morn” [mainly because 25th December is the best day of the year for singing it] Both my late father, and Bob, have chosen it for the first hymn. One year, the person leading the service chose something else! I was quite miffed. But looking back, it was still a great service, the day wasn’t irrevocably spoiled. Maybe from now on, I shall just wander round singing it in the kitchen before I go to church. That way I still get my hymn, and won’t fret about the preacher’s choice of music.

family xmasOthers I know just have to fit something else into their Christmas family ritual. However complicated or difficult it makes life for others.

I've already heard people bemoaning the fact that “Mum insists we always go to them for Christmas lunch at 1.30pm. It’s so hard to get the kids organised, and we have to be on the motorway by 7.30 am, which means opening the presents at 6.30 and…” And I wonder why people cannot be reasonable and acknowledge the difficulties, and work out a happier compromise. But they have always done it that way and are reluctant to change

Things do change. Time passes – kids grow up and want to spend Christmas day with their boyfriend’s family, or home alone with their new baby…and older family members are no longer with us and we feel these absences terribly – so why not break the pattern, change the ritual – go away for a few days somewhere else, or invite somebody else who has no family around to share the day with you?

Hold lightly to things which tie you down and tire you out. Do you need to bake 6 dozen mince pies every year? Who will eat them all? Must you re-arrange everybody’s day in order to get the the Christmas Market in town? Yes, it is pretty and there are lots of fun things to see. But will it be significantly different from last year – and aren’t you trying to cut down on buying fripperies?

Oh, and please don’t blame the Pastor if you don’t get to sing your favourite carol. He probably has a dozen or more services to plan, and is trying very hard to get all the carols in somewhere – maybe you just missed the event which had your ‘pet‘ one!

right – I don’t need to say much about ‘doing the right thing’ do I? Christmas time reminds us that Jesus “had the nature of God, but … of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness” – Jesus always did right.

oxfam unwrapped

The prophet Micah is quite clear about it - “the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.”

sally army xmas


Christmas is a good time to think of others – how can I help meet someone else’s needs? Not what will I get, but what can I give?

For the next few weeks, don’t get obsessed with the enactment of the rite – but be passionate about doing the right! For Jesus’ sake.


  1. You're very right (ha!) about how "tradition" can sometimes get in the way of celebration. I need to remember this, as sometimes I get so wrapped up in doing it "the right way" that I forget why I'm doing it at all! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Hi Angela!
    I'm going to think about this during the week:
    Hold lightly to things that tie you down and tire you out.
    LOVE that! Thank you!

  3. Thanks, Angela. With 5 kids married and two in university, we have learned to "get out of our comfort zone". Traditions have taken a turn and a twist. LOL... Even us "dyed-in-the-wool, washed-in-the-blood, dunked-in-the-water Baptist" have to learn to adjust a little or we'll go round the twist!
    Wonderful thoughts for this week!

  4. It's an interesting balance between the things we 'have' to do even when they don't please us and/or those we love, and the things we do because they are the traditions which make Christmas real to us. I agree we need to hold on to each of them lightly, but some of them SHOULD go for the greater good, and some of them SHOULD stay because without them everything seems flat. I'm going to try to examine my Christmas to check I'm holding on to the latter, not the former. Thanks, Ang!

  5. This is such a lovely and apt post. Thank you. x

  6. Its funny how people find tradition so comfortable! Personally I get bored with doing the same thing over and over, but it sure doesn't make me popular at times! How many guests do we get for Christmas Day lunch (turkey-free)? And the look of 'joy' when you give a third-world gift!!


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