In the month of December, evening meetings bring a very special bonus: I get to see all the Christmas lights on the drive home! It always reminds of when my parents would bundle everybody up, pile us into the family station wagon, and then drive us up and down the neighborhood streets looking at all the pretty lights. Every year I’d look forward to that particular night almost as much as Christmas morning. It was the repetition of that ritual that both drove it deep into my memory and built anticipation of going out and doing it again.
Those memories are all the more interesting to me as I think of how our culture increasingly distrusts ritual, and is less and less inclined to invest the energy needed to maintain it. That’s too bad, I think. Ritual involves repetition, and repetition builds profound connections like nothing else can. Those connections bind us to one another (think family dinner), a valued past (think beloved childhood stories) and to some of our truest and deepest sources of joy (think favorite songs that we've heard a bazillion times but which we still love to hear again). All of this is part of why I so love the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
The repetition and rituals of our worship go back thousands and thousands of years. In so doing, they connect us to a God who is more than the just the product of our current culture, the latest consumer trend. They connect us to the people we love but see no longer who thought these rituals so important that they bequeathed them to us. In doing what they did, I feel the span of the years drop away and our spirits drawing close. And they connect to us to our larger human family, people in every race and culture across the whole wide world, giving us hope that there may yet be peace on earth.