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Cliff Notes...






If you have spent much time exercising, then you know you need to drink water well before you are thirsty. If you wait to drink till you are thirsty, then you are behind the curve and are getting, or are already, dehydrated. If you wait till the night before your test to study (it’s still called cramming, right?) then you may be able to cram enough of the information into your short-term memory to pass but you haven’t really learned much. If you start saving for retirement in your fifties, well that’s just foolish. What do all these examples have in common? Thinking ahead, planning and taking responsibility.

So how do these same characteristics show up in our spiritual journey? Well, that is one purpose our rituals serve—helping to prepare us by creating understanding through repetition. For centuries we have known that ritual plays an important part in forming our view of the world. For example, we do not know what day Jesus was born on, but we celebrate December 25th as his birthdate, why? The answer has been lost in the annals of history. Some say we celebrate Christmas on December 25th because the Emperor of Rome wanted to calm down the Saturnalia celebrations that were a week long, but there isn’t any real evidence of that. Others say that it was to usurp the celebration of Sol Invictus, but again there is not evidence for that either. It appears the date was picked on or near the year 354 AD, but that too is anecdotal. Does it matter?

The importance of Christmas is the ritual of remembrance, not the date (and not the presents by the way). Celebrating Christmas, reminds us of the birth of Jesus. This in turn draws us into the theology of fully human/fully divine, which in turn helps us to create our understanding of who our Lord and Savior is to us. These rituals help us deal with difficult times and issues that arise in our lives. You might not think of it as thinking ahead but it will serve you well when things get difficult.

Take a few minutes and consider all the rituals in your life. How do they help you? Can you see them as travel aids or boundaries? No? Then you had better just stay home New Year’s Eve, lest you participate in a ritual with long lasting consequences!

Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR (Just another ritual!)


Cliff Caton



Well Dear Ones, here we are again. I know it seems like an eternity for young people, the time between Christmas seasons, but for many of us it feels just the opposite. I could swear we just had Christmas a few weeks ago. Where does the time go?

In thinking about what I would write about, I considered what informs us this time of year. Every year we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Every year we look for new and unique ways to prepare our hearts and inspire our spiritual journey as we ritually celebrate the birth of the Christ child. There is nothing new or unique about that. What makes every Advent and Christmas season different is the time in which it occurs.

Therefore, in addition to going through the motions of preparation for the Christmas season by decorating, baking, singing and of course purchasing, we should stop and ask ourselves what is unique about THIS Christmas season. What will you be referring to when you say, “You remember back in Christmas ‘21 when……?” THAT is what we need to be thinking about this Christmas season. 

What do you think that thing, event or news item will be? What is happening in your life that will make this Christmas season stand out in your memory and how will you use it to further your walk with Jesus, the Christ?


Cliff Caton