This time of year, so many of us have favorite traditions. Some traditions go back years, some decades, a few go back centuries. But millennia?
Yes, millennia. Nearly 2,000 years, to be exact.
Let me explain.
A bit over a year ago, I tagged along to visit a church that I knew nothing about, which automatically made it “weird” and “wrong,” right? My main motive was to listen to the “strange teachings” they were bound to try to pass off as truth, and counter them with the real truth from scripture.
That first evening, it was like another world. Strange doesn’t begin to cover it! To my traditional-Protestant-and-non-denominational eyes, this was anything BUT traditional!
But, then I learned more.
I learned of the faith of the early apostles, and of the men they directly taught and to whom they passed the responsibility of teaching the Gospel. I learned of the lives of the people who taught that Gospel orally for years before writing down what they knew, in books and letters that became our New Testament. I learned of traditions that I had never known existed, traditions that had been followed for nearly 2,000 years in some cases.
Gradually, the strange little church and its people grew on me.
Beeswax prayer candles were the first tradition to feel okay, followed by a cappella choral music. (Their rendition of a song described in 150 A.D. as “that ancient hymn” became the perfect way to greet the evening.) Incense ceased to be a strange smell, and began to represent our prayers being borne aloft to God, a sweet smell in His Presence.
Slowly, but surely, the little church drew me in.
So much so that, late last summer, I officially declared my intent to become a member of this beautiful, old, traditional church. And today, December 10, I was accepted into the Orthodox Church through baptism and chrismation (anointing with oil, which represents being anointed with and sealed by the Holy Spirit).
This year as we approach Christmas, I am experiencing a deeper, older tradition than in any years previous – a tradition that includes Saint Nicholas, the real person who later was generalized into Santa Claus, and many other traditions as well.
There are elements of my old traditions this year – traditions mere minutes old when compared to true traditions – though much of what is truly old feels very new to me.
It will take time before these new traditions feel like old friends. But I’m glad to have discovered them!
Whatever your traditions this year, have a wonderfully traditional Christmas!