Advent: December 17

Read: Nehemiah 8:10
Thoughts for Parents:

As punishment for the nation’s incessant unbelief and idolatry, Israel had been captured and forced into slavery in Persia. After many years, in God’s kindness, some of the exiles were allowed to return to their homeland, to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore the temple.

On one certain day, Ezra read the Book of the Law of Moses to all the people … and when the people heard the Law and understood what it meant, they mourned. The Levites helped them understand the commands of the Law and as God gave them understanding, they knew they were in trouble. Imagine what it would have been like to be taken away from your home for disobedience, then to have an opportunity to return and work to rebuild your nation, only to discover that the disobedience that had eventuated in your slavery was still ongoing. The people wept. They were afraid. They knew that the judgment that had befallen their fathers was hanging over their heads as well.

As the people wept, Nehemiah, the governor, and Ezra, the priest, gave the people an astonishing command. Rather than pile on more and more law to try to get them to really repent, they told the people not to mourn or weep, “for this day is holy to the Lord your God.” In fact, not only did they tell them to stop weeping, they were commanded to have a party: eat savory meat, drink sweet wine, and invite your neighbors and those who don’t have a place to party. Enjoy yourself and rejoice in God’s amazing generosity.

Why command them to party? Why wouldn’t their leaders tell them to mourn? Because they knew that God is best glorified in hearts that are joyful. In fact, they knew that the strength they needed to begin to obey and to rebuild was a by-product of joy.

God isn’t impressed by our weeping. In fact, when we know He’s near it’s time to remember His great kindness and rejoice. And it’s only there, in that rejoicing over His love and kindness that we’ll find the strength to persevere even here, even in the middle of our sorrow. That’s what Christmas tells us and why we should celebrate. Yes, of course, we’ve broken the Law, but He’s come to us to be all that we need: a Redeemer, a Perfect Representative, a dear Husband.

Thoughts for Children:

Have you ever been caught doing something really bad? I mean really, really bad. During those times where you know that what you have done is wrong, how do you feel? Are you happy and wanting to have a big party or are you sad and feeling like you want to hide under the covers? In our verse today, the people had been caught doing something very bad. You see, if we are honest, any time we look at the what the Bible tells us to do we should always feel sad because we can never do all that the Bible asks us to do. You would think that what God would want is for us to cry lots and lots when we see how bad we are. Instead, God tells us some good news; He tells us once we see how bad we are we stop crying and can go have a big party. Now that doesn’t make very much sense does it? Because, if we are thinking about what we have done, we know we should feel sad, but God wants us to think about what Jesus has done. He did everything perfectly. We can be happy and throw a big party because Jesus did all the hard things for us. We can have joy even when we mess everything up, because God forgives all of our sins.

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