What are you contributing to this year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations? There is much more to think about than food and decorations, those are merely the peripheral edges of what you bring to these potentially wonderful celebrations. I say “potentially” because family and holiday traditions are very painful and difficult for many, many people. We all desire love, acceptance, fellowship, and intimacy and we know that we are supposed to receive these things through our families. Many people, however, have not received these things from their families or they have only received them in very meager portions or distorted forms. Yet, the natural expectation to receive these things from family is so strong that we return again and again to that same well only to find it dry or contaminated. I believe this experience has given rise to the growing cynicism toward the existence of God, especially a “good” God, in our Western world. But this can changed and you can help.
The book of Genesis well documents the failures of the human race. According to Genesis, we were created to bear God’s image and to carry His creation project forward but instead, we pursued our own agendas and caused a release of chaos into God’s good, well-ordered creation. But did God abandon His creation project as a result? May it never be! The story of Genesis is the story of how God called a people, the family of Abraham, later to be known as Israel, to be the bearers of the solution to the problem of evil and chaos in God’s good world. But before Genesis introduces us to Abraham, it also provides us with a graphic image of God’s faithfulness, stretched out over a razor thin edge with no margin for error, in the story of Noah.
Noah was a man in covenant with God. I believe that this is what Genesis means when it says that Noah was a “righteous man.” The author of Genesis is already well aware of Abraham even though Abraham has not been introduced in the story yet. I suspect too, that the writer of Genesis is expecting his audience to be already aware of Abraham as well. This book known as “Genesis” was written, not as a one-time revelation, but as a narrative to be read and re-read year after year to shape a people into the form that God intended for them. This story was written to give Israel shape, self-understanding , and a sense of vocation. When Genesis says that Noah was “righteous”, it is saying that Noah was like Abraham, a man who believed in the faithfulness and the promises of God. Genesis presents us with a world in complete devastation. Evil has corrupted the world to an almost irreparable degree and God is thoroughly grieved at this scenario, so much so that He intends to allow evil to almost completely swallow it up. Yet, once it has done its worst, He will call the earth back into order and call the human race to its Holy vocation once again. And he will do so by choosing the man Noah, to preserve the human race through the chaotic flood of evil and bringing them into a new creation and the restoration of the human vocation. This salvation is what brings us rest, deliverance from the raging, chaotic flood of evil.This is what was prophesied over Noah by his father Lamech saying, “this one will give us rest...” Genesis 5:29 .
Family is supposed to give us rest. Family is supposed to be a place of safety, acceptance, peace and joy. But when our relationships break down and miss the mark, our traditions become nothing more than a painful reminder of what our families are not. It is no wonder that as the family has broken down, so has the commercialism and the cynicism surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas increased. But you can be a Noah to your family and the people in your world this holiday season. You can be the one through whom God gives rest. You can love people unconditionally. You can serve people instead of being served. You can give gifts that meet the needs of others. You can listen rather than talk. And you can attend to those who are overlooked. But we cannot give what we do not have. Do you have rest? Do you have peace? Are you aware of God’s unconditional love for you? Let’s give the gift of rest this year. But, (and you must believe this), this actually begins by receive a gift yourself. Do you know that you cannot earn God’s love? You can only humbly receive it. And did you know that He has already given His love to you years ago? You just didn’t know that it was already under the tree. So, go get it and open it before Christmas. That way, you can share God’s gifts with others during this holiday season and bring rest to the hurting, chaotic world that God so loves. Let it be said of you, “this one will bring us rest from the toil of our hands arising from the ground that the Lord has cursed.”Genesis 5:29