OK. We’re Gentiles. On our way out to our friends’ sukkah a couple of years ago, my husband asks what we’re celebrating, and starts singing “Happy booth day to you.” Nice. It’s the third holiday of the Jewish year(depending on which new year you’re talking about), and we’ve at least attempted to celebrate each of them in our own, fumbling way over the years. These first three (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot) are tightly clustered together. Sukkot celebrates the provision of the Lord to the Israelites in the wilderness and reminds them of the booths they lived in for so many years. And in the New Covenant, we celebrate the time when God will “tabernacle among us” again. He did once, already–“ And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) and the Holy Spirit lives in all believers, which is dwelling in us. But, there’s something even better coming:
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thes. 4:13-18)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
Forever. He will never leave us or forsake us, but not just His Spirit as we have Him now, but in tangible form, that we can see and hear all the time–Father, Son and Spirit. So, to celebrate the dwelling together, there is Sukkot.
Our friends have gone all out. They have a lovely piece of property with a pond, goats and woods. Now they have a level campsite, outhouse, and booth made of creek canes, and every year, they pitch their tents and stay out there all week. We went to visit them a couple of years ago during Sukkot and walked to the creek, talked to the goats, and asked the Lord to bless the fruit of the earth and the vine as we sang and worshiped around the campfire. Then we had chili and roasted hotdogs; drank hot chocolate and ate molasses cookies. The boys chased each other through the dark woods with flashlights. The girls talked in the tents and looked for shooting stars. It was a lovely time to celebrate the goodness and provision of the Lord.
This year, Sukkot starts sundown September 30th. The booth was supposed to be built the day after Yom Kippur, but well, that didn’t happen at our house. I did help my son with his math outside under the maple tree, which doesn’t count, but well, that’s all I’ve got:). But even if there’s not a sukkah in our backyard, if we have to go sit outside on the patio in our chairs and think of God’s provision to the Isrealites in the wilderness and to us today, and to look forward with longing for the day the trumpet sounds and we join Him in the clouds, we can still celebrate.