The wait until the next Feast of Tabernacles can feel like an eternity. This lesson really came home to me on the last night of the Feast, as the Eighth Day was beginning. My husband had been upstairs helping our 6-year-old daughter finish up in the shower and get ready for bed. After he came downstairs, he shared a conversation that had taken place between them. Grace was asking why we had to go home. With total sincerity she said: “Daddy, I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want all the people to go away. Can we just do the Feast for one more week?”
My heart melted. Oh yes, my child. We are awaiting that day!
This year my family kept the Feast in Branson, Missouri. My husband and I shared a “temporary dwelling” with my father and mother. For eight days, the distance of nearly 1,000 miles that normally separates us was not an issue. We shared our lodging, our food, our fellowship, our laughter and our conversation. Each morning, we would all gather on the patio and enjoy a cup of coffee or two together. Our two girls and our 4-month-old son would snuggle in their Papa’s and Mama’s laps and soak up the love. In the evenings, we would listen to music from my childhood and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Every day we would get dressed up and head out the door for services. As much as I looked forward to feasting on the bounty of the messages, I looked forward to feasting on the fellowship with my Church family before and after services. Often I would spend time talking with those around me about the messages that we had just heard. We would end up sharing stories from our lives and find common ground very quickly.
Our shared belief in the coming Kingdom of God was the reason we were there to worship God for those eight days. The messages helped create a vision, and the fellowship with one another helped create lasting memories. The vision and the memories together painted a picture of hope.
So now that I am home, how do I keep the vision of the Feast alive for another year? It is somewhat easy to keep a smile on my face and talk about “the hope that lies within” when I am surrounded by my Church family at the Feast. It is easy to be joyful when surrounded by people of the same mind who don’t disagree with me.
It is another thing completely to come home to a nation that feels more divided than ever, and hold onto the optimism that I had at the Feast of Tabernacles. How do I hold onto the “hope that lies within” for another year and not allow election politics, the corruption in our government, the violence and division on our streets, the decline in morality and faith of any kind, to not rob me of my joy?
See Your Memories
“Our hope is based on God’s faithfulness. It is our earnest expectation that we will be together again.”
This year at the Feast, my husband and I spent an evening with a group of people from the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan, congregations. At one point in the evening, I asked the women who had gathered around the table to share stories: “How do you keep your hope alive between now and the next time you are able to gather together at the Feast?” Their answers touched my heart.
One woman said: “I go to the Feast with my Church family. We travel together as a group, so we create memories together. When I go to church after the Feast, I see my memories there each Sabbath.” Another said: “Having a Church family is priceless. It helps you understand God’s overall plan.” Another said, “I look forward to listening to sermons from the other sites and being able to listen to them again and again.” And a lady who was keeping her first Feast commented: “There are lots of times I feel very alone. I don’t want to drown in my loneliness. I am hoping that this can give me hope. I look across the table at these women, and it gives me hope.”
Others have told me some practical things they do:
Foster relationships made at the Feast; write notes of encouragement to others.
Spend time with their Church brethren outside of the weekly Sabbath.
Meditate on Lessons Learned
Create a Feast music playlist to listen to throughout the year as you are looking forward to the next Feast of Tabernacles.
One mom of young children said that she makes a Feast photo book that her kids can look through again and again to keep their memories alive.
Focus on the Beautiful
The apostle Paul wrote, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, Holman Christian Standard Bible). As we look forward to the Feast of Tabernacles in the coming year, let us focus on the beautiful.
Fill your mind and heart with the Word of God. Read His Word daily. Immerse yourself in the encouragement that His Word can give.
Pray without ceasing. Prayer is a gift that we can offer one another. It is also a gift that can be offered to us. By praying to God, we enter into a conversation with our Father in Heaven and are able to form a connection that will help us to draw closer to Him while praying for those around us.
See the good and the beautiful in one another. We are the family of God. We are a living, breathing reflection of our Father in Heaven. How we treat one another now can make a difference in how those around us view our Church and our faith. Do they see us living and breathing our faith? Do they see us loving one another, warts and all? Do they see us encouraging each other forward and helping one another overcome our struggles and trials, or do they see us throwing darts at one another. What reflection will they see?
Doing these things can help us keep the fire of faith alive as we look forward to the next Feast. It can help us not lose heart and to remember who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Finally, keep hope! When our daughter Grace asked her daddy why we couldn’t stay and continue, he talked to her about hope. He explained to her that when we go home, we have the hope of another Feast to come. We have the opportunity to earnestly look forward to it, knowing that we will be able to gather together and worship once again as the family of God, sustaining the vision of the Kingdom of God. Our hope is based on God’s faithfulness. It is our earnest expectation that we will be together again. And as one woman put it, “If I do not see you again in this life, I will see you on that day.”