Sunday, December 16, 2007

Family treasures

In the midst of a busy weekend we had a visit from our grand daughter Rhiannon and her lovely parents Kath and Anto. The experience of the light of joy in a child's face at this time of year so captures something of the real Advent spirit. Clare and Rhiannon decorated the Christmas tree together and assembled the crib scene, made of painted clay figurines modelled in a Bristol Junior school classroom over 25 years ago, and added to with various visiting animals and angels ever since. Our children, even as adults, have always been happy to share in these tasks. Having the child of one's own child to initiate into a family tradition is a priceless treasure of a blessing.

It was also lovely to receive an email from a friend in Sweden relating her experience with two step children, her infant daughter and husband at church and St Lucy festivities together, and reflecting how, all over the world families bond around their handed down rituals, recipes and small seasonal pilgrimages.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks last week spoke about how Hanukkah had started life as the commemoration of an important Jewish victory which returned them to freedom autonomy, but with the passage of time, and the reversal of those gains, the festival became instead a festival of the freedom to practice one's faith, something which has left the Jewish community passionate about everyone's religious freedoms, not just their own, and rejoicing in the marvellous diversity of faiths openly and freely practised in Britain today. In a way our contemporary society now much more resembles the way things were before Christianity predominated. The way things are and have been for millennia in many corners of the earth.

It isn't people of faith who find this a problem, but those who live by suspicion and distrust. Such a pity that so often they seem so loud and predominant in public. It's as if they received nothing much handed down in their family tradition worthy of treasuring.

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