Shocking non-Christian stuff
In church, even
Yesterday, at the Church of Open Arms, we observed one of my favorite days of the year. The day borrows from the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles, the celebration of the harvest.
A sukkah, a crude temporary shelter with a palm-fronded roof, provides the shelter, just as tents and crude structures provided the only shelter to the people who spent 40 years in the wilderness, searching for the Promised Land. They had to depend on God to cover them with His protection.
They kinda had nada.
A sukkah covered the altar yesterday, adding a touch of leafy green and rough 2-by-four.
After communion, the congregation brought canned goods (representing the fruits of our harvests) to go to the needy, and stored it under the sukkah.
And the needy are really needy -- Central Florida is filling not only with the well-to-do who have winter homes here; it's filling, as it does every winter, with the poor who want to escape the cold, and hope to find work and a new life in Central Florida.
Often, all they find is a hard time and nights colder than they expected.
So this combination of ancient and modern celebration serves a practical purpose. And it's just fun. Prayers and music have a spirited, Messianic flavor on this day, and there's even dancing.
Our Christian roots are in these ancient celebrations. Christianity didn't spring up from nowhere -- Jesus didn't float down to Earth on a cloud. He was born into a human, Jewish family. That was the appointed place and time for him to pitch his frail tent of a human body among us, and fulfill the prophecies.
Lucky for us, we are heirs of Abraham through adoption.
Let's sing, dance, clap our hands and make a joyous noise to the Lord.
Father J brought in a bedraggled little two-foot Christmas tree and sat it on the altar rail. Another "heathenish" custom, the Christmas tree.
As I looked at this Charlie Brown creation, I thought, "It's kind of like me."
I was raised in a nominally Christian household, but just nominally, in name only.
Like the pagan Christmas tree, and like so many of the first Christians, I've been brought into the church -- converted -- to serve Christ.
The Christmas tree, a pagan symbol of the regeneration of life and the promise of spring to come, has become the evergreen symbol of life eternal: Jesus' birth, death and resurrection.
That little tree wasn't much to look at, but it was full of promise. Through Christ, it becomes beautiful.
Mazel tov, y'all!