Thursday, December 11, 2014
Unity of the Body; Diversity of Traditions
It’s the Christmas season and I always enjoy hearing about the diverse ways people celebrate the holidays. Take gift giving, for example, do you open your presents on Christmas Even or Christmas Day? In Spain, children received presents on the Feast of the Three Kings. Los Santos Reyes is the popular Latin American celebration of the Epiphany. It is often the three wise men and not Santa Claus who bring gifts for children. However, the American influence of Christmas has been increasingly more popular each year, particularly with the children.
To this day, many children in Germany still place their shoes on their doorsteps or balconies and fill them with something like straw, hay or grain for the three kings’ horses. The wise men reward the children with cookies, or small gifts next to their shoes.
While our traditions are different, at the heart of our celebrations is the birth of Jesus. The birth of Jesus is celebrated because he was the long awaited Messiah. He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, visited by the wise men, lived a life that culminated in his earthly ministry, his crucifixion followed three days later by his resurrection.
When we celebrate Jesus birth, we embrace all of the above. This is the foundation of our faith and through these diverse traditions, we can illustrate the unity of our common faith.
Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul spoke often of unity. Jesus prayed, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:21-23)
It is not our traditions that ultimately have attracted people to the faith but the way that we act out or exemplify our love of God and the people (the Great Commandment). Through the years, Christians regardless of their traditions, denominations, culture, nationality, gender or race have been the ones that have been known for both the random acts of mercy as well as their organized charities and missions. Collectively, we care for the hungry and the homeless, the blind and the lame, the widow and the orphan.
At this time of the year, remember that it is Christ, born in a manager, that we celebrate. We embrace our various traditions as the means of illustrating our beliefs and at the same time, the unity of our faith.
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