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Traditions come and then they go

 

101_1310Not long ago a friend asked me about our holiday traditions. I went back 40 years and remembered Christmas morning breakfasts of waffles and syrup at my parents’ home.

Married only a few years, Sweet William and I lived close enough to walk if we wanted, but there were presents to carry and eventually a small boy in tow on a chilly day, so we drove the truck.

We entered through the walk-in basement of their home and ascended the stairs that led us into the kitchen. It was warm and fragrant of coffee and bacon.  The old familiar red and green printed cloth was spread on mother’s round table for the morning feast. Homemade syrup was heating on the gas stove. In the adjacent living room was a tree dressed in red ornaments and birds and laden with presents planned with love. Those were such good days, fondly recalled, bringing a smile to my heart.

Life moves on as unavoidable change affects us. My mother and dad are both gone now. The first Christmas after my mother’s death was so difficult for me. I knew there would be no waffles at her house that year. We had to do something different because Christmas would never be the same again without her excitement, smile, warm hugs, and loving presence.

Yet there was this small boy who needed some normalcy, needed to celebrate Christmas when I didn’t want to that year. I muddled through it somehow. Eventually I had to learn a new way to honor the holidays and life as we now knew it.

I enjoy hearing people talk about their family traditions. When they throw in phrases like, “We always . . . ” or “Every year we . . . ,” it tells me how meaningful special rituals are in the life of a family. Traditions help stabilize when the world is crashing around us.

We bring our traditions with us into a new family unit or we build new ones into the holidays on purpose. But then something happens that disrupts everything. An accident, a divorce, a death, a move, a job loss. Even blessed events, like marriage and children, affect how we will amend what we did last year. We have to adjust or risk making ourselves and everyone around us miserable.

Traditions are wonderful but they are not laws set in stone.

Much has changed for Sweet William and me over the past decade. I recall the traditions we held precious when loved ones were near. But we don’t celebrate the same way now.

More than one family is dealing with a holiday vastly different from last year. What are we to do? We may grieve while treasuring what was. We must move forward into the altered present. Learn to roll with the punches, go with the flow, modify and accommodate.

If we can’t move beyond our expectations, we strain at the bit and potentially hurt ourselves and the ones we love.

Our lives are being refined by the daily events of life. We often put importance on what seems huge and memorable. We may not comprehend how the small day-to-day incidents can clarify, purify, hone and polish us to be conformed into the image of Christ. Humbly submitting to changes with a settled joy may be part of the process of reflecting His countenance.

Change is inevitable. All I have to do is look in the mirror to see the transformations going on. The hair is whiter, the laugh lines deeper, the eyeglasses have three vision areas. And let’s not even talk about what’s going on with my body.

And yet . . . there is a changeless One giving me hope.

In Him there is no shadow of turning.

He is from everlasting to everlasting.

His faithfulness remains even when I am faithless.

Before the foundation of the earth, He is the Lamb of God.

He is a High Priest forever.

He declares the end from the beginning.

He is Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

My tradition of reading and meditating on the birth of Christ remains with me. Though He dressed in humanity, was brought forth as an infant, and submitted to earthly limitations and suffering, He was still God. He is still God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And we have seen his glory.

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Sunday grace

These day I observe the Passover moon grow full and circular. This year’s Passover celebration begins tomorrow.

The Gospel writers, all four, pen their description of what we call The Triumphal Entry, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey just days before their Passover began.  The event is weighty with significance.

Jesus on donkey

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  — Zechariah 9:9

The Jewish community would be picking out a lamb for their own Passover festivities, a lamb for a household, to set it aside from the flock and examine it for imperfections. For only a perfect lamb was suitable.

And on this day, a day triumphant, Jesus rode into the city as the Lamb of God chosen and marked for sacrifice. From the foundation of the world He is the One.

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  — Matthew 21:9-11

This is Jesus, the Word made flesh, the One who showed us the Father’s love. He came with intention and for a purpose, to take up our pain and bear our suffering, to receive the punishment for our sins. And through His wounds we are healed.

Rejoice daughters and sons of God, your King has come and He has been victorious over death, hell, and the grave. He revealed the strong arm of our God who saves.

Shout Hosanna in the highest heaven. Blessed is He who has come in the name of the Lord!

Sunday grace.

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The journey to the cross – He is the One!

Day 34 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

(Matthew 21:1-13, Mark 11:1-19,  Luke 19:28-48, John 12:1-19)

Jesus on donkeyEntering Jerusalem by Harry Anderson (1906-1996)

The story is familiar.  I’ve heard it since I was a tot in Sunday school.  The flannel graph figure of Jesus sitting on a donkey moves along through the streets of Jerusalem while people wave palm branches and lay down their outer cloaks.  They are shouting “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” He accepts their praise, even welcomes it and says the rocks will cry out if the people are silenced.

It is His day.

All four Gospel writers narrow their lenses on the last days of Jesus’ earthly life.  They spend chapters talking about a week of activities.  There is consistency in their view of what occurred yet they each have their own slant, their own perspective.  It’s as if they want us to sit up and pay attention.  As if they shout “This is important!”

But why is it important, other than the fact that it fulfills yet another prophecy about Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah?.  Zechariah said the king would come riding on a donkey.  He would be righteous, victorious and humble.  Jesus was all of that and more.

There is something else.

Hundreds of years before, Moses had instructed the people to talk a lamb.  On the tenth day of the first month of a new year.  Set it apart.  Examine it for imperfections.  Keep it until the fourteenth day.  Then kill it.  It is the Passover lamb.

Jesus made His grand entrance into Jerusalem on the tenth day of the month.  He was about to make all things new.  He would give all those who believe a new beginning.  And so He was set apart.  Examined for imperfections.  Presented to the people on the 10th day as the sacrificial Lamb.  And on the fourteenth day of the month, just days later, He was killed.

God’s Passover Lamb.

He is the One we have been waiting for.  Give Him praise.  Shout Hosanna.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

The promise

Day 3 of 40 days to Resurrection Day

Suggested activity:  Read Genesis 22:1-19

Abraham’s testing and prophetic statement that “God would provide for Himself a lamb.”

I had a little sheep-herding experience as a kid.  My cousins had a few sheep in a fenced pen, and when they got out, which seemed quite often, sometimes I joined them as we called for their dog and went to round them up.

Thoughts of sheep and lambs take me to the Old Testament.  The history of the Hebrew people begins with Abraham, and he was a shepherd.

The Bible tells us about an old man who left most of his family and all that was familiar to wander an unknown land the rest of his life.   Just because God told him to.

Abraham received and believed some of the most amazing promises.  He became an example of faith.  What does it look like to trust God when you don’t understand the ‘what’ or the ‘why’ but you trust the Who?

It looks a lot like Abraham.  His story begins in Genesis chapter 12.

God’s promises to Abraham didn’t always come quickly to fulfillment.  Some did not come to pass in his lifetime.  And I wonder how he kept the faith?

Sometime in his 80’s, Abraham was told he would have a son and that all of the world would be blessed because of his seed.   Abraham reached 100 years when that son, Isaac, was born, and that’s a long time to hold a promise close to your heart.

The challenge today is to read about God’s extreme directive for Abraham to offer the promised son on the altar of sacrifice.  It is this part of Abraham’s journey that connects us to the story of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

It was a hard command Abraham heard.  Even more difficult to act upon.  We know the ending to the story, but Abraham carried his heavy heart up the mountain along with the wood and the fire.  I cannot even imagine.

Somehow his faith sustained him even under this darkest of circumstances. Before Abraham experienced the final outcome, he uttered a most profound and prophetic statement.   When Isaac asked where the sacrifice was, the offering they would give, Abraham said:

 “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  

The word here for “God” in Hebrew is Elohim, the Creator and Judge.  This is the One who created the plan of salvation from the very beginning; the One who must judge sin because He is righteous and holy; the One who would provide His own sacrificial Lamb because we can never, ever, ever measure up.

This is the God who promised a Savior, a Lamb who would take away the sin of the world.

Though the fulfillment of the promise was long in coming, it came!

I have some promises I am holding on to with all my heart.  I may not see all of God’s promises completed and fulfilled in my lifetime, but I choose to trust the One who made the promise until it comes to pass.

One thing I know.  When God makes a promise, He intends to keep it.  And He will do whatever necessary to do just that.

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Revised and re-posted from March 2014