Philosopher James K. A. Smith has a lot to say about the power of liturgies in shaping or
forming our hearts. They do this by focusing our hearts on a telos (end), or a vision of the good life, through repetition or habit. I agree with him that whatever we have as that vision—that end that we ultimately desire—will direct our lives by pulling us toward what we truly love. As believers that vision should be of the Kingdom. But all too often other liturgies are shaping, or de-forming our hearts, as Smith would say.
In one of his books, Smith asks his readers to consider the various liturgies present in their homes. All homes have them, whether they have been intentionally shaped or not. These can include rhythms, practices, or even decor that are actively forming our hearts, even unbeknownst to us. I think this is a very important question worthy of serious consideration, especially as we approach another holiday season.
I have considered that question myself this evening as I look around at our freshly placed decorations. I love the liturgy that my wife has shaped in our home. From biblical truth written in chalk to lyrics of hymns that are rich in theology, our family comes into contact with the truth in almost every room. This is especially true at Christmas. The most festive aspects of our decor during this season celebrates the King.
As the calendar turns to December, our family once again begins a journey toward Christmas day by hanging daily ornaments on a Jesse Tree. Each day our kids will take turns hanging a different ornament on that tree that corresponds with a smaller story from the Scriptures that all fit together to tell the big story of Jesus’ coming, the Word made flesh, and his preeminent place in the redemptive plan of God.
What about in your home? What liturgies are shaping your heart? What liturgies are shaping your children’s hearts? What about during the Christmas season? What in your home is supreme in setting the desire of your family? What effects do our practices, traditions, and even decorations have in determining what that telos is and aiming our affections toward it?
I have prayed tonight that even in my own weakness and in the imperfection of our parenting efforts that the truth that confronts our children through the liturgies of our home would help to stay their hearts on Christ. I pray that God’s Word would be impressed upon and hidden in their hearts for the rest of their lives by these repetitious elements. I pray that as they have opportunity to talk about memories of Christmas in their home that those truths would be at the forefront. I pray that one day the liturgies of their homes would shape the hearts of their children with the same timeless truths.