Pastor Jim Mann
“Tradition,” Elbert Hubbard once said, is “a clock that tells you what time it was.” Of course there’s no better season to remember years gone by than at the holidays. Thanksgiving is coming and Christmas isn’t far behind. Tastes, smells, songs…they all vividly bring back those wonderful memories we carry with us.
But sometimes tradition can backfire. In Israel’s history, when Hezekiah took the throne, he started cleaning house, destroying every idol he could find in the land. We read in 2 Kings 18:4, “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”
A little background on that snake. In Numbers 21, God had done a miracle with that very statue. Snakes had invaded the Hebrew camp, people were dying, and God decreed that anyone looking upon the “brazen serpent” would be healed by God.
Fast forward another 800 years and Hezekiah finds this same bronze statue. Only now the statue itself had become an idol the people were worshiping. I’m sure it was never intended to be. The statue was kept as a memorial.
But over time the statue became more important than what it represented. The meaning of the snake, the miracle of what God did for the Hebrews, was forgotten with the passing of years.
It doesn’t take an insightful social critic to see that our nation has done much the same thing with the holidays. Thanksgiving is about food, football and parades. Christmas is about commerce, family, tradition, community… anything but Christ. It’s difficult these days to find someone who knows to whom we give thanks or a Christmas card instead of the ubiquitous “Happy Holiday” greetings.
We’ve got these wonderful holidays in our nation, passed down with wonderful traditions and memories. Yet over time their genesis has largely been lost to us. We have tradition without meaning. We find ourselves worshiping the days rather than the one who brought them to us.
My prayer for you this holiday season is that you enjoy them to their fullest. And as you enjoy the traditions, I pray you will also have new depth of meaning. Happy holidays and may this be a worshipful season for you. See you in church.
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Visit New Life’s website: www.NewLifeDenton.org for more information.