As I began personal preparations for Advent this year, I began to wonder if a change was in order. The last few years, our family has used the same Advent calendar. It has wonderful daily devotions, and fun, pop-out depictions to coordinate with each day. It has suggested ways to pray as a family and how to make Advent through Epiphany Day meaningful. But I wondered if my family was boring of the same old tradition, so I started to think about alternatives. Right as I prepared to place my order, I mentioned something about the order to my husband. My seven-year old immediately chimed in, “We’re getting the same calendar, right?!? I want to do the devotions.” Shocked by her commitment, I went back to the old order, and ordered a new calendar right away.
Just this past weekend we purchased our annual live tree. Though I knew I had a day or two to let the tree settle, my husband was anxious for me to get the lights and ornaments on and to unpack our Christmas decorations. I, on the other hand, was not as enthusiastic about the work it would entail. As soon as my daughter heard that I would be unpacking ornaments, she begged to help, even though it was a school night. So, we turned on the Christmas music and got to work. Her enthusiasm was contagious. As she unpacked various ornaments, she would declare, with glee, “I remember this one!!!” She eagerly reminded me of how we strategically place delicate ornaments up high, out of reach of her younger sister. She also worked to place all the ornaments that make noise down low so her sister could enjoy them too. As I watched her revel in reliving Christmases of years past, I was flooded with memories of a similar routine with my own mother.
My interactions with my daughter this year have reminded me of why being a part of a liturgical church is so special. Though “routine,” or tradition, may sound boring to some, the routine of liturgy is a tremendous source of comfort and belonging to those who participate. Every Advent we hear of Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Mary the Mother of God. Every Christmas we retell the Lukan nativity narrative. Year after year, the pattern of the liturgical calendar, the repeating of holy scripture, and the weekly practice of Eucharist are our routine – our tradition. Though we always want to keep church fresh and relevant, the routine is what grounds us. The routine brings us comfort. The routine gives us a sense of identity.
I am especially grateful for that grounding in identity this year. In a year of political upheaval, of community and country divisions, and of raised awareness to the phobias and “isms” of our time, I am grateful for a liturgical pattern that reminds me of who I am, what is important, and what brings us peace. Though I am always excited to try new experiments, I am reminded this Advent of the power of tradition – and it is anything but routine!