When I think of my favorite family memories, I’m struck by how many of them revolve around holiday traditions. My siblings and I are grown up now (chronologically speaking), but we hold as tightly as ever to those old nostalgic habits whenever a holiday rolls around.
There’s the annual Turkey Bowl football game, played by three generations of family members; the “midnight moonlight walk” every Christmas Eve, when we get bundled up for a hike in the woods, whatever the weather; the New Year’s Eve time capsule, where we make outlandish predictions for the year ahead; and of course the egg-cracking contest that happens around the table at Easter brunch, complete with brackets and elimination rounds.
As I was making my way through Leviticus, with all its rules about sacrificial offerings, clean and unclean foods, purification rites, and even regulations about mold, I have to admit my eyes were glazing over a bit. So I was sufficiently taken off guard when I hit Leviticus 23. In the midst of all the talk of laws and consequences, God had another command for his people: declare a national holiday! (Seven, for that matter.)
It’s easy for me to think of God (especially as he appears in the Old Testament) as a rule maker, an enforcer, a judge. But a party planner? Hardly.
As I reflected on the celebration instructions God gave his people, it occurred to me that he knows we aren’t made to work nonstop, going through the motions day in and day out. He also knows that left to our own devices, we’ll just keep trudging along in the everyday, not taking the time to pause and appreciate the things he’s done and the people he’s placed around us. So he encourages us—no, commands us—to celebrate.
The word celebrate is used six times in one chapter: “Celebrate,” God tells his people. “Celebrate each year”; “be careful to celebrate”; “celebrate with joy” (Leviticus 23).
I’m not sure God had family football specifically in mind, but I do think he envisioned the memories, the laughter, the connections that occur when families and friends gather together.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’d best get to work on organizing the bracket for that egg-cracking contest in a few weeks….
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.