Monday, November 29, 2010

The Rabbis and the Christmas Tree


Here's the kid working on a Black Hills Spruce at our annual trip to Riverview Christmas Tree Farm near Canton, SD. Lots of people were there on Saturday, as it was a balmy 44F in advance of today's likely snow and wind.

Advent/Christmas/Epiphany decor takes me back to one of the churches I served in Southern California. It was part of a very diverse interfaith community. We had an especially good representation of Synangogues.

At one of the clergy gatherings, the theme was "Tell Us About Your Winter Holidays." As you might guess, Christian clergy moaned and lamented about sentimentalism, commecialism and too much busyness.

The Rabbis weren't impressed. "It's the only time of the year your people transform their homes," one said. Then a group of them laughed and said in unison, "A good Jew is made in the home, not the Temple."

That stuck with me. Advent calendars and wreaths, Christmas Trees, garlands, creches and other decor are means to convey the message and spirituality of church seasons. And study after study in aspect after aspect of life tells us that what children experience in the home is formative. Churches and other settings can have input and influence, but the most significant formation of a soul takes place through its most significant formative relationships.

Winter weather on the way here - good days to stay in and decorate. And to talk up the decor:

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth." Deuteronomy 11:18-21

5 comments:

The Underground Pewster said...

Mezuzah's to all!

Jill said...

I like that. We all should be at work "transforming our homes." :)

The Archer of the Forest said...

That is something that I have always pondered as to how Christianity turned the focus from the home (and not the synagogue) being the wellspring of faith to the Church being the center of faith. I need to ponder that some more.

TLF+ said...

Archer - I wonder if the traumatic parting from Judaism, in which so many families were divided, had an impact? Although the Pastoral Epistles certainly reassert family order and the teaching role of dads.

Even among the Gentiles, it seems as though there were tensions caused by the claims of Christ. Paul had to warn the Corinthians not to separate from pagan spouses, for instance.

My guess is that the claims of the Heavenly Kingdom establish the church very much as an alternative "family" which often challenges the claims and order of earthly families.

But that's just quick conjecture and I am sure you are right about a more detailed history to ponder.

David Handy+ said...

There are some profound issues here worth discussing, or pondering carefully. Yes, "A good Jew is made in the home, not in the Temple." But as Tertullian rightly said, about AD 200, "Christians are made, not born." (The Latin's even more emphatic: Fiunt, non nascuntur, Christiani).

That is one of the crucial differences between Judiasm as an ethnically-based religion and Christianity.

Or as the great Pentecostal leader David du Plessis memorably put it: "God has no grandsons!" (i.e., because he wants to be everyone's father). Second-hand religion doesn't cut it.

But naturally I'd agree that the home is the primary place where the discipleship of children either happens or doesn't happen.