Saturday, April 4, 2015

Decoration Day

Yesterday I did some decorating for Easter. No eggs or bunnies on my front lawn, just a lovely assortment of fresh flowers on the stage of our church. They smell amazing, and they are a reminder to everyone who enters that Easter Sunday is an extra special day. Several other church gals were there helping spruce the building up, and we spent about 3 hours working on it.

(You know how many hours we spent at Christmas? I don't remember, exactly, because after a while I went into a catatonic state...but it was a LOT more than 3, I am sure. And the same is true of my own home.)

I've been pondering on this strange little realization that I've had...that I spend a solid month decorating and preparing my house for Christmas, the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Messiah, the Savior of the world...and I spend a few hours, maybe more if I'm searching for just the right dress to wear, preparing to celebrate the day that same Jesus Christ, Messiah, Savior of the world, rose from the grave.

Hmm. Why is this? 

Obviously, Easter is not nearly as commercialized as Christmas, and I don't want to take time dwelling on how that particular phenomenon affects our Christian celebration of the two holidays, nor do I have any intention of addressing the fact that evergreen trees and Santa Clause and candy-filled eggs and the Easter Bunny have less than NOTHING to do with the birth and death of Jesus...despite how we have found ways to intertwine them.

No, this particular musing is directly tied to...decorating. (Because, after all, I am female...which will also be explanation enough for the following two paragraphs, which seem to be rabbit trail topics, as well as totally unrelated to each other...bear with me. I'll bring it all together...I hope.)

Random paragraph #1: I often begin putting up my Christmas decorations in early November. Because I just cannot wait for my favorite season to begin. My husband judges me, and so, too, do most visitors to my home before Thanksgiving. But I don't care. I want everyone to know how very excited I am that Christmas is coming. (The stores do it too, as we all know. I'm not the only crazy person out there, and I do refrain from putting up exterior decorations until Thanksgiving weekend, because I don't mind being judged by the people I let INSIDE my house, but I cannot abide the idea of strangers driving by and judging me.)

Random paragraph #2: We don't have huge birthday celebrations in my family, at least not as a rule. I know some people throw giant parties for their kids, and invite everyone in the world, and have an enormous cake...yeah, I'm not that mom, and neither was my mom. When you come from a large family, and you have a larger than average sized family of your own, you quickly learn the value of the phrase "less is more." As a kid, I received 1 birthday 'bash' and that was on my 16th birthday. Don't get me wrong, birthday's were special...just not huge-party-with-tons-of-people special. I have adopted this beloved tradition in my own home. For my daughter's 13th birthday last week...she and I got pedicures, and went to lunch together, and I cooked her the dinner she wanted and we bought her the present she requested. That was it.

Okay, here's the moment where the second rabbit-trail paragraph ties in. :) Every year at Christmas time when I am decorating, I think about what a grand birthday party Jesus must have in heaven each December. It's HEAVEN, after all, and I always imagine God showing off His creative skills with brand new versions of...everything, just for the party. And in my head, He's walking around, nodding and saying "Spared no expense," like the old man in Jurassic Park says while showing the not-yet-eaten people his not-yet-destroyed dinosaur zoo. (movie quotes that can be used in real life are one of my favorite things...) 

Anyway, I don't think its sacrilegious or blasphemous to assume there is a celebration of Jesus on His birthday. God the Father has been giving clues, reminders, 'decorations' if you will, that He was sending His Son, through all the prophets for thousands of years. There is the miraculous conception, there is a brand new star shining in the sky, there is the angel Gabriel, and all the other heavenly host, and there is the prophecy of those things.

God is clearly excited about the birth of His Son, so it only makes sense that there would be a party in heaven. 

But...oh man, this is where I start to get really stirred up...upon further pondering, I feel fairly certain that the party Heaven throws at EASTER is twice the size of the Christmas bash.

Because when Jesus is referenced in the Bible for the first time, in Genesis 3:15, it isn't a reference to His birth. It's a reference to His victory over the serpent. 

And when Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son on an altar on Mount Morriah, and then he is stopped by the Angel of the Lord, and there is a ram caught by its horns that is there for them to sacrifice instead...that is a picture of Jesus...not His birth, but His death. It's like God is hanging up a string of lights to remind anyone who is paying attention that something exciting is coming soon, and He can't wait to share it with the world. "LOOK! I am about to do something spectacular. I have made a way for My justice and My love to both be satisfied. See that sacrifice in the thorns? THAT IS WHAT'S COMING."

Abraham lived 4,000 years before Jesus.

FOUR THOUSAND YEARS.

God has been 'decorating' for Easter for a really long time.

Moses was told, by God, to use the blood of a lamb to mark the doorposts of the homes of the Israelites. Not to point to the birth of Jesus...but to His death. The blood of the sacrifice protected the people from death. 

People, please tell me you can see that decoration. It's blinking and singing, for heaven's sake. This was the first Passover, because the angel of death "passed over" the homes that were protected by the blood.

AND THEN, then the people were freed from their slavery. From 400 years of bondage and toil and sorrow and death, they walked out. AFTER the death...there was life, and freedom, and hope.

OH man...there aren't enough capital letters or exclamation marks that can express my excitement. God is decorating the Bible with His excitement about the upcoming holiday.

Not Christmas, though that's in there too...but He decorates extensively to prepare for THE Passover weekend. When THE Lamb was sacrificed. (You did know that Jesus was killed on the first day of the celebration of Passover, right? Yeah, if you don't have Holy Spirit goose bumps yet, you're not paying attention.)

I am convinced that the Easter party is the biggest one in heaven, because God could NOT keep His decorations in the attic for thousands of years. Instead, He told the Israelites to remember Passover every year. EVERY YEAR they remembered, and celebrated, what God set up as a mere precursor to what He was going to do.

I can't keep going, because it's just too good, and I'm getting too excited. So just imagine how God felt! (okay, maybe THAT is a little sacrilegious, imagining how God feels...eh, I still feel saved.)

 But I cannot help but think of the Red Sea being parted, and God, who has just strung together an entire historical event to show what He has planned, is still so pumped that He has to show off a little bit more. "Okay, people, pay attention. Not only am I sending a Deliverer from your slavery, your bondage, your chains...I am also sending the POWER by which you can overcome your enemies. The death that is behind you (the Egyptian army) and the death that is in front of you (a sea for them to drown in) are NO MATCH for me."

And He flexed His mighty arms and DROVE back the sea!!!!! And once He had His people safely on the other side, He squashed, covered, buried forever in the sea behind them, the chains and bondage and slavery.

Oh boy, now I could do the Holy Spirit jig. ARE YOU SEEING HIS DECORATIONS???

He wanted us to know what was coming, and so He gave us pictures throughout scripture. 

His love for us was so great, from the very beginning, that He couldn't stay silent and let us flounder without the hope of mercy. He gave us the hope, right at the beginning. He put His decorations up EARLY, and He left them up so that we wouldn't ever forget what was coming.

PASSOVER IS COMING. I imagine that had to be a hard reminder for God. Every time the Israelites celebrated Passover, God would remember that He had made this grand plan...but that it required blood. Pure blood, without sin. The blood only One could give. Every decoration God put into place for us to see and gain hope from...also reminded Him of the pain of sacrificing His One and Only Son. He knew what Passover meant for Him...but He also knew what it meant for all of us, for all eternity. And His love for us is so overwhelming that He continued to put out the reminders, the decorations, not of His Son's birth, but of His Son's sacrifice.

EASTER IS COMING. Now it's getting even more exciting. Remember the Israelites? Remember that the death angel passed over them? And then it seemed death was coming anyway, in the form of either a raging army or a raging sea? That's us. We are standing there.

Passover is done now...the death and the blood are done. But still we are frozen and afraid.

Because we aren't living in EASTER power. 

BUT GOD TOLD US WHAT TO EXPECT.

He decorated for this already. We only have to look to see it.

He will blow away, with His very breath, the sea that rages in front of us. He will separate us from the chariots of the enemy behind us with a pillar of fire so that we are not consumed. He will bury UNDER THE OCEAN the reminders of our slavery, our chains, our bondage. 

That's Easter morning, people. That's resurrection. 

I can't even being to imagine the way God flexed His muscles that first Easter. The stone rolling away and the earthquake and the empty tomb and the angel on top of the rock and Jesus zipping around from one place to another and the dead walking through town...all of it...it's God's moment.

"YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!"

"FINALLY!"

All the time of preparing, all the pictures in scripture...it's all for this moment.

He TORE THE VEIL IN HALF, from top to bottom, (it was 6 inches thick, by the way, and several stories tall. His muscles flexed!!!!) He accepted the blood of His Son as payment for all the sins of all who would only believe, and...

"It. Is. Finished."

Not just death, and sin, and slavery. But eternal separation.

It's finished!!!!!

We can be with Him.

God, through Jesus, conquered death SO THAT death would never be able to conquer us.

That's Passover.
That's Easter.
That's what He's been decorating for throughout all of history.

And that's why there is a party going on in heaven, bigger than any other time.

Because God "spared no expense" in order to open His throne room to us. 

Not only now, but forever.

Just look around. 

He's decorated history to show His love for us.