Some could say that this year could feel like a bit of a letdown after last year. Last year at Christmas we were singing carols in Shepherds Field overlooking the town where Jesus was actually born. This year was our first Christmas ever spent with no extended family around. We each had a couple gifts under the tree and we shared a dinner with another family who had no one to spend the day with.
Last year on Palm Sunday, my sons and I carried palm branches and walked from the top of the Mt. of Olives down into the Old City of Jerusalem with thousands of other jubilant believers crying out and singing "Hosanna!!" We remembered the time when 2000 years ago Jesus entered the city by that same route and received a king's welcome. This year we celebrated "palm Friday" (our church meets on Friday nights) attending a wedding rehearsal and then in a small upstairs room with a handful of other believers -
Last year on Good Friday I went to the Old City and watched as a Middle Eastern Man carried a cross through the city to reenact Christ's own journey to Golgotha. On the way home I passed the Holy Sepulchre, the church on the site of what people believe to be Christ's tomb. I watched as pilgrims wept over the place where He died for them. This year on Good Friday we shared a potluck meal with other believers and worshipped and took communion together.
Last year on Easter Sunday we woke to a sunny Jerusalem morning and went to the Garden Tomb where we celebrated Christ's resurrection with singing along with people of many other languages and cultures. We finished the day with a barbeque with friends in a park overlooking the old city. We watched the sun set over Jerusalem and we watched the sun set on the day of all days - Tomorrow on Easter morning our boys will do a scavenger hunt for their Easter baskets. We will meet together with friends and worship, baptize some and share some good coffee and pastries. Then we will head out to the "country" to share a meal and to celebrate with some of our closest friends.
The experience of last year far exceeded my expectations and to spend Christian holidays in the place where they all began was incredible and life changing. But where does that leave the rest of believers? And where does that leave me now that I am just a normal American citizen celebrating the holidays in somewhat "normal" ways? Tonight it hit me, while I was stuffing little plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies into my boys (and Ryans) Easter baskets. I realized that while last year made a huge impact on me and I highly recommend to people that they travel to the Holy Land if possible, God was ever present with me before I went there. And he is with me now. All I really need to do is take just a single moment to reflect and just that moment is enough to make my heart swell. That the God of the Universe would come down to earth, live and then die in my place to save me and to show his great love for me - now that is over the top. That is true whether I am sitting in the town where he lived and died or if I am sitting in my living room in suburban America.
I am grateful for that. I am grateful to our great God who by His smallest gesture of love to His most outrageous creations makes life never boring and never without promise. Tomorrow I will celebrate with other believers and remember that God Almighty did write out a story with many twists and turns and one great cliff-hanger that ended in Jesus gaining victory over death and once again reigning over all things. Whether comes joy or sorrow, excitement or the mundane, God is alive and well and in each of our life's story.
Happy Easter and may you find great joy in knowing that Jesus is Alive!