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The Significance of Traditions


You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

—2 Corinthians 9:11-12 (NIV)

For most of my childhood my grandparents on both sides of the family lived very far away. My Grandma and Grandpa Halvorson lived in Williston, North Dakota, and my Grandma and Grandpa Clements lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I cherised the times my parents and I visited as a child, and there was always something magical about traveling to see them in places so different from my hometown in Illinois. But, nothing compared to when Grandma and Grandpa came to stay with us. Those were wonderful days.

The first time I met my Grandma and Grandpa Clements was Thanksgiving of 1983, and my baptism was the following Sunday. I was all of 2-months old and wouldn't have known about those days if it wasn't for my parents' stories and photos of everyone sitting together around a table full of traditional Thanksgiving favorites. As the years went on traveling became more and more difficult for my grandparents in North Dakota, but Grandma and Grandpa Clements continued to visit regularly. And then, in 1997, Hugh and Gloria retired and moved to Illinois, and for the first time in my life, the entire Clements side of the family lived within 45 minutes of one another, and new holiday traditions were formed.

We would eat Thanksgiving dinner around 1pm, then go for a long walk to and through the state park in town. We would collect osage oranges for the fun of it, only to leave them all behind before walking home. Then we would eat pie, even though we weren't hungry in the slightest sense, then light a Duraflame log in the fireplace and turn on a Christmas movie that my grandpa couldn't stand watching (but at which he still laughed). This was our Thanksgiving tradition for five years before my parents and I moved to a new city, than for the next three years the only difference in our tradition was not having a log in the fireplace.

Traditions matter. They give us a sense of past and present. They give us a sense of identity. They do evolve over time, but the core message remains the same. One definition for tradition in the dictionary is: "the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by examle from one generation to another without written instruction." We didn't have a Clements Family Thanksgiving Manual, we simply spent time together as three generations cintinually learning to love one another and to give thanks for the blessings in life from each other.

The traditions we hold as Christians have been passed down from generation to generation. We celebrate the tradition of being generous to our neighbors. We celebrate the tradition of giving thanks to God for the ways we have been blessed. We celebrate God's tradition of never leaving our side during good times or bad. Traditions matter.

Do you have a Thanksgiving tradition? However you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I pray it is a time of celebration of God's presence in your life, God's forgiveness and grace given for you, and God's promise to lead and guide you all the days of your life. Though this message may be a little early, I wish a blessed Thanksgiving this year.

God bless,

Pastor Nathan