Dear Fellow Children of God,
So, traditional western Christmas Day is past. The candlelight services are completed. The presents are opened. Most family meals and celebrations are eaten, and we know we ate a little (or a lot) too much. What happens now?
When do you take down the Christmas tree? When do you take down the manger scenes? When do the decorations get put back in the boxes and stored in the crawl space or the attic? In some ways it is almost like there is peace and joy while the holiday is here, but then it vanishes until December 25 rolls around next year.
Let me share with you a number of ways that God’s people have continued to celebrate His Christmas love throughout the years, even after the dates of celebration have passed. Because, you see, God’s love and blessings are forever!
Do you know about the Jewish festival called, “Purim?” This celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people living in the Persian kingdom during the Babylonian exile. The evil ruler Haman was going to have all the Jews killed, because Haman hated Mordecai. But, by the grace of God, with the help of Mordecai’s niece, Queen Esther, Haman was foiled and the Jews were saved and blessed. This was such a significant event that in Esther 9 the Jews were given the following instructions concerning the celebration of this deliverance by God.
“21 . . . have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar 22 as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”
It has always struck me that this Old Testament celebration in many ways sounds like our present day Christmas. Purim included feasting and joy and presents of food, and gifts to the poor. And, notice this was an annual celebration. The annual celebration reminded the Jews, and God’s people today, that even when the days of feasting ended, the love and blessings of God continue. (By the way, in 2016 the Jewish celebration of Purim begins on March 22.)
Or, maybe you have heard the song called, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Actually, this is a song that was written by Christians to celebrate Christmas when there was persecution in England centuries ago. But, why twelve days? Christians have always included the account of the Magi as part of the Christmas story, even though we are told Jesus and his parents were no longer at the manger, but now living in a house at this time. (Matthew 2:11) The traditional day for celebrating the arrival of the Magi is January 6. If you count from Christmas Day through January 6 you’ll find there are 12 days. In other words, the blessings of Christmas are not just given to us by God on just one day. In fact, the good news of Christmas, that God is with us and forgives us and saves us in His Son, are eternal blessings worth celebrating throughout our lives.
In Hebrews 2 we have a different kind of sharing of the blessings of Christmas. “14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil-- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) All our lives we struggle against the temptation and power of the devil. How appropriate that we continue to celebrate that Jesus destroyed the power of our enemy when he shared in our humanity.
So, the candlelight services are completed. The presents are opened. Most family meals and celebrations are eaten. BUT, the Christmas blessings of God continue. God IS with us in and through Jesus! May you continue to live in the peace and joy and eternal life God gave that first Christmas, and continues to give to us throughout eternity!
A Child of God, Thankful for the on-going blessings of the Christ-child!
P.S. Here is a picture from an ice fishing ADVENTURE! The lens was foggy, but he smiles are real. A story will follow later! https://picasaweb.google.com/114993745799525883148/IceFishingWinter20152016#6231208772976097074
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.