As we follow the church calendar for our daily family devotions, we find that Eastertide is about celebrations, first and foremost celebrating who we are as redeemed in Christ thanks to the work of the cross, and second as those whose hope is in the power of the resurrection. Personally I love celebrations, I have often thought that if I could do a career change I would be in big event management because I love a good party. I love seeing people come together and laughing together, telling stories, allowing the cares of this world to pass away if only for those few hours. I love Christmas and Thanksgiving and well, every holiday, because I get to use them as an excuse for celebration.

A few days ago was my birthday, and every year I struggle with wanting to do some big celebration due to the reasons stated above, however this year I decided that as long as I wasn’t required to homeschool my son and actively participate in normal community life on my birthday I would be content. This was the first year that we has a family celebrated with just us. And it was beautiful. My husband led our children in singing to me happy birthday, not once but three times, with the last time bringing out the guitars (husband knows, son is still learning) while my daughter danced around in joyful glee. It was one of those moments that I know that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Dallas Willard said “We engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness.” In that moment as we as a family were celebrating my birthday, I felt the delight of God himself in us. Zephaniah 3:17 says that “He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” If we serve a God who delights in us and rejoices over us with singing, how much more should we be doing the same thing over each other? In the country where we currently live, rejoicing over others or even with others is not common, it’s actually very rare. Yet I have seen first-hand what power there is in celebrating each other and celebrating with each other. The Bible tells us Nehemiah 8:10 that the joy of the Lord is your strength. I quoted this verse for years and years never realizing that this statement comes directly from a command to go and feast in the goodness of God, to celebrate before the Lord. It literally says to go and feast “for this day is holy to our Lord.” Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength and it that joy is renewed, our strength is revitalized in the celebration unto God.

In light of that, I am now more determined than ever to teach my children how to celebrate, maybe in simpler ways but in every opportunity to celebrate all that God has done for us, through us and with us. I want my children to know the delight that God has in us and how as messenger of His good news, we sure should delight in others as well.

Epiphany: a sudden and striking realization

Epiphany:  An experience of sudden and striking realization; a new and profound understanding that takes an individual to a deeper understanding of a situation.  An “a-ha moment” of the highest order. But, more importantly, to a Christian, Epiphany is the season in which we embrace the newly born child who came to Earth as our Savior.  He was, and remains, a gift.

Teaching my girls about Epiphany led me to a personal epiphany. This time, between the joy of Christmastide and the personal reflection of Lent, has so often gotten lost in the waiting for a time of celebration.  What my family missed is the fullness of knowing why Jesus came.

Ask any child who has been raised in church “why did Jesus come to Earth?” and the answer will undoubtedly be “to die for us and forgive our sin”.  This is true, but only partially.  The magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is not lost on me.  On the contrary, each year his death and resurrection is revealed to me in new and fresh ways, increasing my understanding and my love for Him.  What I missed in the scope of that amazing and beautiful picture of surrender to God’s will is that Jesus’ first purpose in coming to Earth wrapped in flesh was so that we could be grafted onto the family tree of God, that we would be made fully aware of our status as fully loved and treasured children of the One True King.

When the Magi made the great journey to see the Christ child, it was not because they had been awaiting the arrival of the Jewish Messiah.  The Magi were not of Jewish descent.  And yet, God revealed the grandeur of this simple Bethlehem birth to them.  And so they came.  They learned who this child was because they stepped out and took the first step of a very long journey.  And God welcomed them.  He lit their way with a bright and beautiful beacon that said “this is my son…and he is here for you.”

With God there is no picking and choosing.  No one is left sitting on the sidelines waiting for the call to join a team that never comes.  No one is left trying to figure out where they fit in or trying to act as though they don’t mind being picked last again.  He accepts all races, all colors with no regard to age, socio-economic or (quite important to my family) developmental boundaries.  He loves us and accepts us because He made us.  We are, literally, His.  And all we have to do is accept the gift.

And so, in this beautiful season, I have had a sudden and striking realization.  My Lord is the ultimate inclusionist  (is that a real word?  It is for me!)  He will seek us across oceans and boundaries of our own making.  He will pursue us to the absolute depths to bring us home.  He knows the heart of those who express their love and pain to Him with unending words.  But He also knows the hearts of those whose words are hindered and for whom pain can only be expressed in cries and for whom praise can only spill out in dances of sheer joy.  He knows who the words and the songs are for.  They are for Him.  Because…we are His.   All of us.  Children of the One True King.  The recipients of the first Christmas gift.