Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Youth Page

Written by Peter Langbroek
Dear Children,

Ôt Was the night before Christmas. In the living room lay a tent. Larry had asked his dad whether they could have a Christmas tree. Dad just said, "Christmas is more about a tent than a tree." Then, to Larry and his brother Rick's surprise, Dad came upstairs with a tent. Even Mom wondered what he was doing. For one week the tent lay on the carpet unfolded. When Rick asked Dad what he was going to do with the tent, he just said, "Wait until Christmas Eve."

That night before Christmas, Dad asked Rick to get the sleeping bags and air mattresses. Meanwhile, he and Larry set up the tent. It still felt dank and smelled like smoke from their last summer camping trip. The air mattresses and sleeping bags were soon in the tent.

"OK, Larry and Rick, let's go inside!" called Dad.

"Dad, this is weird!" laughed Larry.

"You'll understand once we're in." Mom and Dad followed the boys inside the tent. Then Dad turned on the electric lantern inside the tent.

"Dad, why are we camping inside our house on Christmas Eve?"

Dad looked at Mom. They smiled, and he thought a while. "Remember, I said Christmas was more about a tent than a tree."

"Yeah."

Dad reached for his Bible and turned to Amos 9. Keeping his thumb at the page, he began talking to them. "Long ago, Noah spoke to his sons Ham, Shem, and Japheth. Ham had shamed him by telling his brothers of his drunkenness. That next day, Noah spoke as a prophet, and cursed Ham's son Canaan. But he blessed Shem and his descendants and promised him that God would live in the tents of Shem. Do you remember who became the descendent of Shem?"

"Abraham!" Larry piped up.

"You're right. Abraham's descendants became the nation of Israel. To them God revealed Himself and set them apart as a holy nation. He freed them from the Egyptians, when they crossed the Red Sea into the wilderness."

There, in the wilderness, Israel lived in tents. There, God had a special tent made. It was always set up in the centre of the camp. It had a white cloth fence around it. There was a burnt altar in front of the tent. Furs covered a square building where the Ark of the Covenant stood. It was a ÉÉÉÉ...?"

"I know! I know!Ó cried Rick. "It was the tabernacle."

"Yes, and what was so special was that God showed He was with Israel by a cloud over the tabernacle at daytime and with fire by night. Later, when the Israelites were in Canaan, every October they celebrated God's goodness by making booths, shelters made of willow branches and palm leaves. They would decorate the booths with colourful vegetables and fruits. Then the families would camp out for a week in these huts. They would visit each other, give sacrifices, sing Psalms, and hear God's Word read to them. The booths reminded them of how God cared for their ancestors in the wilderness. It reminded them of God as a shelter to them from the searing heat of the wilderness."

"And then É.....?" Dad paused, looking sad.

"Israel rebelled against God. They worshiped idols and sinned greatly. God sent prophets to them, like Amos, to warn them of judgment. Still, they didn't listen. Finally, God sent the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. The few survivors were brought to Babylon. They returned 70 years later to start life over again in Israel. But things weren't the same. The rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple were not as nice as during the time of Solomon. And, would you know what upset the Jews the most?"

"What?"

"No one of David's family ever reigned since Jerusalem was destroyed. The Jews read that the prophets promised a Son of David would reign again. But for 400 years nothing happened. It was as if the line of David disappeared, as if it was a tent put down and set into storage, like a booth that had fallen apart, its branches scattered on the ground and the palm branches died out. Until ... that night!"

The boys thought for awhile. Mom whispered into Rick's ear.

"Jesus!" Rick shouted.

"What do you mean?" asked Dad.

Larry thought. Then he interrupted: "Jesus comes from David. When He was born, He came to be the king."

"That's why the wise men looked for the 'King of the Jews,' Dad added. That's why they worshipped the toddler Jesus in Bethlehem. They recognized Him and gave Him gifts fit for a king. When Jesus was born, it was as if the tent went up again!"

"I'm going to read Amos 9:11-15. Then we'll pray, and then we'll sing some Christmas songs, and then you can sleep here tonight, and you can even stay up 1 hour past your bedtime."

"Yeah!" the boys cheered.

Dad opened the Bible where his thumb lay. He read: "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord."

Ôt Was the night before Christmas. The family prayed and sang their first song: "Joy to the World." There, in the living room, under the cathedral ceiling, the boys would wake up the next day, on Christmas Day, in a tent.

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