We who have believed enter that rest. Hebrews 4:3 ~
The holiday begins in earnest tomorrow evening with a family dinner with two of my daughters and their families at my house. I'll have Steve and Lisa, Quinlyn and Michael, and Donna and Ron. We're busily preparing food and gifts for the holidays, which will include a big dinner on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Today I'll be making some challah, some dinner rolls, and a pineapple cake--which is a version of a pound cake with crushed pineapple and some pineapple juice added to the batter for flavor. It's Quinlyn's favorite.
Yesterday I received a delivery from Los Poblanos, so there will be fresh vegetables on the table, for which I'm very thankful. We even have Japanese turnips! Fresh green beans and fresh potatoes--both white and sweet--and apples. Donna made a delicious dish of fresh apples cooked with pineapple one evening recently, and it was so good that I've asked her to repeat that performance for one of our dinners.
And Keller's, our meat store, has fresh meat processed by them without anything unnatural to enhance the meat. We'll be having ham and a chicken casserole (especially for Quinlyn) on Christmas Eve, and ham and turkey (especially for Steve) on Christmas Day. Steve and Lisa buy all the meat, so I feel very blessed and thankful to be a part of their lives. When Donna and I went shopping at Keller's last week, we decided that a fondue would be good to have on Christmas Eve, so we got three cheeses to make one: Fontina, Gryere, and Baby Swiss. I have a fondue pot from Switzerland that I have only used once or twice, so that will be a pleasure for me. And the challah will make a good bread for dipping. The menu makes me say, "Yum!"
Well, enough of our plans for the holiday! I tell you all of these details, so that I can also tell you that I'm giving you the first half of Chapter 16 fromMeeting God In Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith today, because I won't be writing a blog on Saturday and Sunday. Each week when I read a chapter from this book, I have the same thought: this is the best analogy I've read so far. And so it is this week, with one of the nicest ways of looking at the possibility of being close to God. In this chapter Jesus is represented as a gate through which we can enter into a new relationship with God. The analogy used is that of an enormous and beautiful gate leading to the manor house in Stanway in England. Not only is it a gate, but a three-story gatehouse. As you can see in the pictures, it's very impressive.
There are many gates in the English landscape...gates of all descriptions and kinds, some built to keep animals in, and some to keep intruders out. Gates along footpaths invite you to enter and enjoy the countryside. Some gates are even beautifully embellished, like a wedding or party invitation--a beautiful invitation to come through. And one of the grandest gates in all of England is the one in Stanway, a gate which adorns many picture books of the Cotswolds. All the gates dotting the area are a reminder of something Jesus said:"I am the gate,"he told his listeners."Whoever enters through me will be saved." Jesus invites us all to enter into a new relationship with God. And even if you have nagging doubts and disbeliefs, or even stubborn pride, he is the gate through which you can gain access to God.
You've probably heard many of Jesus' invitations already: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." And another: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'...Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." How can anyone refuse such warm invitations!?
The context of Jesus' invitation is that of entering a sheep pen--appropriate for the Cotswolds perhaps, but what does it mean for you and me? Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.... I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Jesus is offering us an invitation to go through Him--as He is the gate--to find pasture. And He reminds us that He is the only gate!
Jesus is the only gate because He is the One through whom the world was made, the One who knows us better than we know ourselves, and the One who knows the path to spiritual life. Without Jesus, there can be no lasting fulfillment...any other path is futile. The prodigal son found out this truth the hard way. Doing what he wanted to do brought him nothing but misery, not the happiness and fulfillment he had planned. When he finally overcame his stubborn resistance, he found happiness in his father's home, where it had been right in front of his eyes all along!
Tomorrow we'll look at theexpectation the gate at Stanton brings to those who see it. For today, I'll be busily working to make the holiday as merry and bright as I can!