Every year on Christmas Eve, while the commotion of eating dessert and catching up with cousins captivates most of the family, my mom interrupts to read Luke 2. When we were little, she draped us upstairs in colorful sheets and scarves to dress up like Mary, Joseph, the angels, and shepherds. Downstairs at my uncle’s and aunt’s house we sat silently as she read, and when she finished we all sang the Glooooooria part at the end of “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Mom was about the business of remembering.
Every holiday I can think of, Christmas, Easter, July 4th, Passover, Thanksgiving, are days set aside to remember. They are not established exclusively for vacation time or just a day off. They word holiday itself comes from the term as holy day; they are days set apart.
You may be thinking this is an untimely post because it is not Christmas yet, or you might think I am worse than the department stores, putting out Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. I hope not. Instead, I share my memory because another holiday of a different culture ended yesterday, October fourth. This year, the Jewish holiday of Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles was from September 27th-October 4th. It is a weeklong time of remembrance and our little Hannigan family likes to celebrate this and other Jewish holidays because God established them and celebrated them when He dwelt among us.
He instituted the tradition for his people to remember what took place while they were in the wilderness after the Exodus. You can read more about it on your own, but I won’t leave you without an introduction. The Israelites spent about 400 years in slavery to the Egyptians. God raised up Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. God rescued His people through awesome acts of judgment. Passover remembers these events. Then the 40 years camping in the desert, with God as their shelter, provider and protector. God dwelt with them in His own tent. This festival commemorates that time. There is depth, many nuances in the symbols and timing of this feast and I will not be addressing them all. In short it celebrates God dwelling with His people. “God with us.”
Hence the Christmas reference. We don’t know exactly when Jesus was born, but my husband thinks there is biblical evidence suggesting it was during this time. I agree. God is a perfect author, and as the story of Jesus’ birth unfolds I find it ironic that his parents had to travel somewhere else to a temporary dwelling. The idea of God himself dwelling as a man, putting on skin for thirty-three years captivates me. Immanuel, God with us.
After Jesus ascends into heaven, he tells his disciples that he will send a helper to them; they should wait in Jerusalem until he comes. So now, as a Christian the Holy Spirit dwells in my body a temporary living space until death takes my body and I go to meet my Lord.
Finally, He promises to return again to dwell with His people, coming as a conquering King. Come, Lord Jesus.
Often God speaks through the ordinary everyday things in our life. That’s what I normally write about. He dwells with us and wants to be in communion with us, but He also has set apart days or weeks for us to remember that He is not ordinary. God is extraordinary and He has holy days set apart for us to remember that. Whether you celebrated Sukkot or not, my hope and prayer is that you are flummoxed by the idea of a holy God coming to dwell among his people and that he did not stop thousands of years ago, but that he still desires to dwell with us in our ordinary lives. Extraordinary.