I stall miserably in taking down our Sukkah. I watched through the back window as my husband disassembled the last of our beautiful 'tabernacle' this evening. The back deck is eerily solemn and empty now without the curtains and lights and flowers and banners and all the beauty we created for our celebration of The Feast of Tabernacles. So many memories were made in that tent out the sliding door. But by day 9 our pumpkin lanterns were sagging and the table cloth was spattered with the remains of countless outdoor meals shared together.
The candles have burnt down to merely wick but all the glory and wonder of that hallowed place still beckons me to remember.
The Sumac here is bright red and our Black Walnut trees are raining down golding showers. Harvest season is the reaping and the thanksgiving, the feasting, and the praising. The knowing and embracing how every single solitary things comes from Heaven and every breath and every heartbeat is willed to take place by the One who holds the stars in space. Abba God, Yahweh, the Truth whose very name makes the sound of breathing.
And He is my breath, my very life line.
I gaze out at the sunflowers, still blazing yellow and blooming bright after our week of celebrations. I remember gathering around those flowers the eve of the Feast and I remember placing them carefully on the table as the wind howled all around us. Yes, the day we started with a bare back deck and saw it transformed into a breath-taking tabernacle that filled our children with awe. It is blazed in my memory - us decorating our first outdoor Sukkah, and the kids all starry-eyed in wonder.
And if some one had of told me a year ago that I'd be building a Sukkah and embracing this biblical feast I would have looked at them funny and given my goofy nervous giggle/snort. I mean, really? That's kind of, um, weird.
So as those wind gusts tormented us, so my own spirit gave in to torment. I stood and smiled but deep inside, the question lingered... should we really be doing this? We would hang a decoration and the wind would gust up and blow a table ten inches to the side. The curtains were flapping wildly as Simon desperately tried to tie them down- a nine-year-old boy on a mighty mission. I laughed but I really wanted to cry. All this struggle, and to the world - this is just plain odd. Ok, Lord... is this your will, Lord?
Suddenly, three chairs crashed over onto the glass table. The children were frightened by the fierce wind and I was instantly reminded of God's glory and His power. He is the very wind and these gusts don't even compare to His true power. Still, my heart was slowly sinking as I fought the blasts and tried desperately to continue preparations for our outdoor supper and celebration of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Wind or no wind, we would build our Sukkah.
Dear friends joined us late in the afternoon and embraced the fun and joy of preparations. As we chatted, laughed, and hung banners, ornaments, and lights, the wind still rippled around the outside of the tent. At times, it was as if the walls were sails on a ship, billowing and bowing and rippling wild.
Any one who has ever tried to do anything outdoors in wild wind can understand why we would have felt disheartened. Why this first time Mama might have been questioning and sinfully wondering if the Lord had truly asked of us to embrace this celebration. I dared not speak it to anyone, but deep inside, I had twinges of doubt.
But, as we stood together under the tent's cover - we prayed. We prayed hard that the Lord would stop the wind. We prayed, 'Lord, you say to make your requests known - so we are asking, praying, that you would stop the wind Lord, please. We build this Sukkah and we embrace this holy day for your honor, so we place this before you... you have the power to do all things and surely, to calm the wind so we can celebrate Your feast day in peaceful weather..."
And we left it at His feet. As so often we are called to do as followers of Christ.
We cooked and I watched as the Hallah was made and then I braided the dough and we laid out place settings and goblets and lit the candles. All the while, the wind was dying down. Slowly, so slowly that we didn't really notice.
Then, when all was prepared and we entered the tent for dinner together - the air was so still, not a single side of the tent so much as rippled. There wasn't even a hint of a breeze. The torrents of wild wind had been shushed to absolutely nothing. The children cheered, the Mamas teared up, and God was glorified.
And me? I was humbled. Again and again I am humbled and I am reminded of who is God and how He works and how faithful He is. How faithful and how true. And complete peace overtook me in that sparkling little tent.
We shared and read and even blew the Shofar. We broke bread and passed the 'wine' cup and remembered Christ broken for us. Yes, Christ broken for broken me. We feasted and praised and reflected on Christ Jesus - the very Emmanuel, God with us, who tabernacled among His people. The very Christ child who grew up, died, rose, and sent His Spirit to dwell with us even now. Even in this very moment. We sat in awe at the softness of the evening, the crickets chirping, the moonlight, and the awesome presence of God Almighty right there in that little tent all warm and cozy and filled with light.
Praise God. He is faithful and He answers prayers and He calms storms.
And He meets with us. Even when we doubt He will. Or we doubt His whispers. Or we just plain doubt. Maybe because something isn't conventional - we long to fit the mold but we know we're being asked to step right on out of it. To embrace His truth and His wonder, not the world's.
The lights glitter and the candles dance at nearly midnight after our friends have long gone home and the kids are tucked into bed. My stomach is full of soup and bread and too much pie - but my soul, my soul is so full it could burst. Joy spills over as a I stand and gaze silently at the remaining pieces of a night of The Feast. I'm overwhelmed with Christ Jesus' presence in that quiet place of worship.
The next morning, I sneak outside wrapped in blankets before sunrise. Something, no - someOne beckons me to come and sit in that sacred tent. I open the Word, the very breathing of God and sip hot spice tea in the dim light of candles. This light. This flickering light, right here in front of my sleepy eyes - the light. And He is the light of the word. And Christ Jesus, Yeshua Immanuel, spoke the words about being water and light during this very Feast when all the other people still waited for a Messiah. They waited and yet, He walked among them. But they did not know Him.
How I long to know Him. I mean, really, really know Him. To walk His path and hear His whispers and see flickers of His light in everything. To know what it truly means to answer His beckoning of "Follow Me". To find Him here in His dwelling place and also in every place because the whole wide world is His tabernacle, really. He is everywhere at all times and no one can comprehend it - they can only grasp on in faith. And in faith, be moved to the very core of who we are and how we worship.
For seven days we kept our Sukkah and we gathered under this tent for meals and quiet times. It is life-shaking when we listen and obey the Lord, even when what He leads us to is something completely unexpected. I never thought I would be decorating and creating a 'tabernacle' for the Lord, but I now can testify of the power of His ways and His festivals and His appointed times. Friends, there is so much beauty and depth in His Feasts!
We do not put up these tent walls and decorate with lights and candles and all things beautiful because of a religious rule - we do this because we love God and strive to honor Him.
We create this visual tabernacle as an outward symbol of what we long for on the inside.
We long to be with the Lord. To experience Him. To know Him more. To have Him truly dwell with us and among us and to feel His very breath and hear His very words. We do this because He has whispered how to honor Him and we long to love Him the ways that truly magnify His name.
Because worship isn't about us. It's about God and how He asks us to worship Him. And how He puts the desires of His heart in our very hearts when we ask Him to do it.
And His feasts bring us to Him in powerful ways I could never have imagined. Oh, the depth, the richness of His truths. The whole of a Messianic Sukkot is to remind us God is our Shelter and our Refuge, Christ is Emmanuel - God with us, Christ is the light and the eternal fountain of life. His Holy and Everlasting waters wash us white. We remember this too, that we have a permanent home, and it isn't here on earth. Our stay here is as temporary as that temporary tent on the back deck.
And yes, it is our time to celebrate the birth of Christ. He who came, born in a simple Sukkah, a humble stable. He who descended and tabernacled with His people. It's like the precious old hymn says:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel...
Hail, the heaven born Prince of Peace
Hail, the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth...
Born so that we may live. And I mean, truly, fully live. "For I came that they may have life and life abundantly..." And the only full life is the full-of-Christ-life. Because He is the very One who fills the otherwise forever hole in every single human heart. Sukkot beckons us to set aside the things of this world and embrace the set-apart, intentional worship of the King of Kings. To enter in and dwell intentionally in His presence. To still the world and Hear the Word. To humble our hearts and listen.
Among the Autumn breeze, the crickets, the gentle clucks of the hens, the passing of a car, there - in a still small voice, He whispers. But first, we must quiet ourselves and be desperate to hear.
His voice wasn't in the roaring of the wind -
but in the stillness thereafter.
From Psalm 27
"One thing I have desired of the Lord
That I will seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He hall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock...
I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle..."
"On the last day, that great day of the feast (of Tabernacles), Jesus stood and cried our, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scriptures have said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
"The Jesus spoke to them again saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.'"