November for our family is the beginning of a huge, happy wave of celebration– birthdays, an anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, then more birthdays… And I love every minute of it! Sometimes I cannot believe the joy of being part of a family within the covenant of God’s greater family. This is who we are. God is so good!
What makes these celebrations even more wonderful by far is the sparkle of anticipation in the eyes of our grandchildren, who by now have enough history in their young lives to eagerly anticipate the certainty of our celebrations, and the specific traditions that have already become patterns in their young lives. Through our celebrations, they are learning who they are, and what they are a part of.
It’s been said that “Christmas is for children.” Frankly, I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Christmas, like all of our other celebrations, is a tool we use to teach our children the wonderful works of God as we’re commanded to do. Through celebrations, they learn who they are within God’s greater story. Psalm 145:4-7 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts…They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness!”
There is something so amazing and so significant in celebrating the works of the Lord with our children when the source and origin of our celebration is the King who is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” [whose] government and of peace will have no end (Is.9:6-7.)
During the years our children were being educated, we kept a timeline of significant events in history on the wall of their classrooms. We referred to the timeline as “Jesus Christ- HIS Story” because these events show the hand of God in our past, leading to where we are today.
The timeline began, obviously, with Creation. “In the beginning…”;
then Moses receiving the Law;
then Jesus Christ, the very center, the “focal point of all history”;
then Paul as he spread of the Gospel;
then the Bible translated into English, the Reformers and the Martyrs;
then Columbus, who bridged the Old and New Worlds;
then the Pilgrims who began America with the Christian principles of self-government;
then the Patriots who formed the foundations of our nation;
then the Pioneers moving westward;
and finally, the present– our place and responsibilities on the timeline of history.
By referring to this timeline of events in all of their studies, our children were constantly reminded of God’s hand in history, and consequently of how they got here, and what their place is in the bigger picture.
Not surprisingly, all of the celebrations we enjoy with our family are rooted in these significant events in the timeline of Jesus Christ– HIS Story: Christmas, Resurrection Day, Reformation Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Independence Day. All of these reinforce to our children the wonderful works of God in our history, and the significance of their own place within the story. In the Bible, parents are commanded to celebrate the works of God and His great faithfulness. How amazing that the Bible “commands” us to celebrate– it’s kind of like finding out that eating chocolate is actually good for your health!
Lately, I’ve noticed that when we ought to be celebrating the great significance of Thanksgiving, it’s regarded more in America today as little more than the “opening ceremony” of the “winter holiday season!” Shopping this past week, I was amazed to see all of the stores decorated for Christmas, with virtually no evidences of Thanksgiving! Very few Americans even know the amazing story in our history of the sacrifices made by the little band of Separatists who fled the oppressive tyranny of an intrusive government that forbade them from the free worship of God.
Yet, very much like the children of Israel fleeing from the oppression of Egypt, the story of the Pilgrims is an amazing one of great strength and courage to persevere. And, ironically, we reap the benefits of their sacrifice! How can we not be incredibly grateful, and diligently teach our children the significance of this part of their history with intense celebration? Like Miriam grabbing a tambourine and dancing after the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, we also ought to celebrate the triumph of what others have sacrificed for our freedoms.
So often in the Old Testament, parents were commanded to consciously and diligently teach their children to remember what God had done for them. In Exodus 12:26-27 when celebrating the Passover, the Israelites were reminded, “When your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.”
A couple of years ago, friends who come from a Jewish background invited Dan and me to the celebration of the Passover with their two families. During that evening, I was so struck by the continuous pattern of the fathers asking their children what they were celebrating in all of the symbolic elements of their meal. It confirmed to me how important it is to celebrate the wonderful acts of God and to teach our children the glory of God through these.
Again, in Exodus 13:14 when they consecrated their first-born sons, God said, “When in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery…’ ”
The strong hand of the Lord has sovereignly and miraculously led us throughout history, and will continue to lead us. What a wonderful thing it is to celebrate!
So in anticipation of Thanksgiving, at my house this week I’ve set up my little Pilgrim dollhouse that my grandkids play with only at this time of year, and I’ve dug out the children’s story books about Thanksgiving. Our turkey is ordered, and I’ve begun preparing special foods for our feast, when my grandchildren will likely arrive dressed as Squanto or a Pilgrim. My house is decorated with colorful leaves, pumpkins and the shock of wheat that my 5 year old grandson suggested I put on my table. At some point, I will likely watch the Charlie Brown DVD “The Mayflower” with my grandkids again (the facts of the story are correctly based upon Gov. William Bradford’s 1620 journal of the account.) We will probably trace our handprints on construction paper and after dinner, each will write what we are thankful for on them before taping these “leaves” on a construction paper tree trunk (which I will not be able to make myself throw away after everybody has gone back home.) And, of course, we’ll play games together, like the Pilgrims did with the Indians during their three day long celebration.
These are the fun and wonderful traditions that my grandchildren have learned to expect and anticipate. I don’t think they even realize yet the deep impact of what we are communicating to them.
“Give ear, o my people…” Psalm 78 says, “…I will utter sayings… that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done… which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God…”
Powered by Facebook Comments