Don’t Miss the Treasure Hidden In the Season
by Eric Wright
Our modern culture often criticizes traditions, especially when the meaning or purpose behind the tradition gets lost. Once a new rabbi came to a synagogue where the people were bitterly divided over whether they should stand or sit during the Shema (the Jewish confession of faith). The leaders agreed they would consult the oldest member of the synagogue to determine what the tradition actually was. The rabbi, along with a representative of each side, met with the 98-year-old man. One spokesperson asked if sitting was the synagogue’s tradition and the man said, “No.” Then the other representative inquired if standing was the tradition and again the man said, “No.” At that the young rabbi exclaimed, “But there must be a tradition; everyone is arguing about this issue!” The old man smiled and said, “That is the tradition.”
For me, traditions rekindle a sense of what is truly significant and help me see value in something I may have overlooked. It is like the man at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show who noticed a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He looked at the vendor and, containing himself, asked, “You want $15 for this?” The seller, realizing the rock wasn’t as pretty as others in the bin, lowered the price to $10. He bought the stone and later had it certified as a 1,905-carat natural star sapphire that was appraised at $2, 280,000. It took a lover of stones to recognize the stone’s worth. Sometimes, I don’t think we really understand what we are celebrating this month and what it brings to our lives.
Dan Baumann described one holiday experience and in so doing illustrated an important point. “One year I discovered a large package with my name on it under the tree and knew immediately it was a new set of golf clubs. When Mom wasn’t around, I would go and feel the package, shake it and pretend that I was on the golf course. Actually, I was already enjoying the pleasures of a future event, namely the unwrapping. I knew what it was, it was already mine, but it would not be handed over to me until Christmas morning. Then I would see with my eyes what now I could see with my heart.”
Faith connects us to what we believe will be there; it is the anticipatory joy of having expectations, even before the expectation is realized.
Samuel Johnson once said, “The mind of man doesn’t move from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.” Faith is an assurance something is going to happen though it hasn’t happened yet. Hope is what begins that journey by opening our minds to entertain the idea that “it’s possible.”
You have probably heard about the man who approached the Little League game one afternoon and asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. “Eighteen to nothing,” he replied. “We’re behind.”
“Boy, I’ll bet you’re discouraged,” the man responded. “Why should I be discouraged?”
the boy declared, “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!” That’s hope.
Mary Ann Bird wrote in The Whisper Test, “I grew up knowing I was different and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate and when I started to school, my classmates made it clear how I looked to them, a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I would tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass; somehow it seemed more acceptable that I had an accident, than to have been born different. I was convinced no one outside my family could love me.
There was, however, a teacher in the 2nd grade we all adored, Mrs. Leonard. She was a short, round, sparkling lady. Annually we had a hearing test, which our teacher would administer. So when it was my turn, I knew from previous years that we covered one ear and the teacher would whisper something we would repeat back like, ‘The sky is blue’ or ‘Your shoes are brown.’ As I stood by her desk Mrs. Leonard uttered those seven words that changed my life, in her whisper she said, “I wish you were my little girl.”
If you listen this Christmas, heaven is trying to whisper something to you as well.