A new day is dawning after our Christmas celebrations. Two of our three house guests are being transported to Toledo to catch a bus and our home is mine alone for half a day. A perfect time for reflection and meditation, and maybe a couple loads of laundry.
I am a Christian and also a person who doesn’t feel a strong need to follow convention or tradition. It is a common thread in my family that has sometimes gone so far as a willingness to break from tradition to maintain individual integrity or to adjust to new life circumstances. Every time I think of tradition I think of the wonderful play “Fiddler on the Roof.”
When my Christian church calendar celebrates the major traditions and beliefs of our holidays, I spend time in contemplation. How can I celebrate that which is so central to my life in a way that is meaningful to me? Is it important for me to also reflect my faith in public so others can see? I’m an introvert, not comfortable with public displays. My identity and integrity are based on what my heart and mind do in private much more than what my body does in public. I know other people experience their faith differently.
This is a special year for Christmas because there were Christmas services on both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. I didn’t attend either. We have our family Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, a tradition we began when adult children created their own families – allowing them to spend Christmas day with in-laws. I would like to attend church on Christmas Eve but am not willing to disrupt a network of other families to meet my own spiritual need. I foresee a time in the future when this will change again as grandchildren marry and create their own families but with our children at the helm.
There were two extra guests in our house this year besides our daughter, and I could have invited them all to attend church on Christmas morning – but I didn’t have the energy. Besides, our time together eating blueberry pancakes and talking about religion and culture with our daughter’s friend and her 17-year-old daughter from Kyrgyzstan fed my spirit. I am sitting the day after, remembering our Christmas day as being filled with joy, relaxation, and way too many sweets left over from the day before. We served and nurtured each other in ways unique to the needs of each. Chynara rubbed precious Kyrgyz oil on the tight muscles of my back. I think Jesus would have enjoyed himself in our midst. Today, I shed tears of joy and gratefulness as I remember.
JB and I go to church because we recognize the need for corporate worship and the strength of living within the emotional bonds of a community of like believers. We are already looking forward to attending Lenten services in our Florida church. But we don’t feel bound to attend in order to ‘be seen’ as a good Christian, or because tradition says we should. We attend because it feeds our soul, just as our daily living in ways that are pleasing to God keeps our souls healthy and praises God.
This isn’t the way it always was, but as we are aging we are finding our spiritual needs are changing. It is how we balance our love of God, our love of others, and our love of self. In the coming year may all you, within the religion you practice and your family life-cycle stage, find a spiritual balance that is respectful and pleasing to all.