celebrating Christ with joy

As I’ve finished my year of spiritual disciplines, the practice of joy has been the most lasting and fulfilling of all the disciplines.  I chose to read Psalm 119 repeatedly, often aloud, in the weeks before Easter, to remind myself to delight in the word of God.  I want God’s passions to be my passions, so that the actions and thoughts that overflow from my heart are ones that exude the joy and glory of God.

“Celebration is essential to joy,” Jim Wallis writes in The Soul of Politics.  I don’t think a statement like that needs context.  Holidays like Easter should be commemorated with the utmost jubilation.  Many churches today seem to have set aside meaningful traditions, perhaps in an effort to squash out rituals that had become legalistic and cold.  But in so doing, we have lost the art of teaching and enjoying and celebrating.  I want Isaiah — and all my children — to understand why we believe what we believe, why we do the things we do.  To celebrate in tangible ways is to make my life full of Christ, so that he is my family’s meditation “when [we] sit in [our] house and when [we] walk along the road and when [we] lie down and when [we] rise up” (Deuteronomy 11.19, New American Standard Version).  Too many holidays have gone by in my life with only consumer-driven traditions.  I have learned to be thankful for physical gifts but have not learned to be thankful for sanctification, for deliverance, for redemption, for consummation, and for reconciliation.

On Sunday, our church had a Messianic Jewish guest speaker (Steven Ger, from Sojourner Ministries) who explained the spiritual significance of the Seder meal Jews enjoy at Passover.  I came away wanting to celebrate such a meal with my family and friends, retelling the story of rescue and forgiveness and healing every year.  The symbols of wine and bitter herbs, salt water and hyssop are powerful teaching tools.  If an event like the Exodus is worth celebrating with such dedication, how much the more is Christ’s work at Easter?

I was most impacted by Ger’s description of the matzoh — the unleavened bread.  There is a Jewish tradition to put pieces of matzoh into three compartments of a bag.  The piece in the middle compartment is taken out, wrapped in a linen napkin, and hidden away until after the meal.  The other two pieces of matzoh are eaten.  When the meal is completely over, the hidden piece is retrieved, broken, and eatenAlthough Jews disagree amongst each other as to the meaning and beginning of this tradition, the three-compartment bag perfectly symbolizes the Trinity.  The middle piece, Christ, was hidden away in the tomb in linen cloths.  But in his resurrection, he finishes the work with his broken body.  Ger likened the unleavened bread to the unleavened (or sinless) Messiah.  The matzoh, like Christ, is pierced and striped.

The Christian Communion cup took on a whole new significance, too, once I understood more about the Jewish Passover meal.  While four cups of wine are traditionally taken at a Seder meal, Jesus introduced a fifth at the Last Supper with his disciples.  This cup represents the new covenant, the blood poured out in forgiveness of our sin.  Without this cup of reconciliation, Gentiles like me have no part in God’s redemptive plan.  But the cross and the resurrection change all of that.

I’m an amateur at explaining such significant spiritual concepts.  I only know that with a tangible symbol, I start to get it.  I start see what’s worth celebrating.  I remember to celebrate with joy.

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  1. Carrie,
    My flock group at Bear Creek the other year did a Seder supper around the Easter season. Very interesting. I hope you get the opportunity to experience one.

    Timothy

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