A Shabbat encouragement from a couple years ago, still timely today:
At this time of year when surrounded by festive lights and reminders of Christmas, we often hear the expression, “’Tis the season!” Although used in the 19th century previous to the well known Christmas carol “Deck the Halls”, that song popularized the expression which has come down through the ages to us today. Over the years its use has expanded beyond the Christmas season reference and has become part of our vernacular. Watch out, ‘tis the season for ticks, for colds. . . .
By far the most common usage, however, does relate to this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. ‘Tis the season to celebrate these festive holidays that are approaching with all the trappings we enjoy. As a Messianic Jewish community we expand these to embrace our Hanukkah traditions as well even if not intended by the Christmas carol writer. We think of this being the season of drinking egg nog, enjoying holiday decorations, gift giving, and also giving to others and being more charitable. The song and the phrase identify a deliberate association with a time in our calendar when we are prompted to think of observing and doing specific activities.
We are already programmed to think in terms of seasons, and the changes each brings. We often associate each of these times not just with changes around us, but also, intuitively, with changes within us – spring, a time of new beginnings; summer, enjoyment of life; fall, reflection and transformation; winter, a time to rest, restore, recharge, anticipate better days around the corner. These thoughts have been so beautifully stated in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, and memorialized by the Byrds in “Turn! Turn! Turn!”.
We have times in our community for projects we do together – yard cleanups, giving campaigns – ‘tis the season. We have times we recognize the need to work on interpersonal relationships and on ourselves to bring us closer to living in the model of our Messiah, times deliberately set aside to focus on a time frame to work on these challenges. These are seasons in our lives – cultural, communal, relational, and personal.
Yet the most important season of all is spiritual. Though seasonally always present, now ‘tis the season for us to redouble our efforts in this particularly important spiritual season affecting all mankind. At this time of Hanukkah we are reminded to rededicate ourselves spiritually just as our temple was purified thousands of years ago. There is a reason, and a season, for those exclamation points in the title of the Byrds’ song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” As the punctuation suggests, this is not just the season of festive holidays and of extra generosity to those in need, but also, the season of spiritual renewal, a time to turn from our secular distractions and focus on HaShem.
What better time for the phrase “‘Tis the season” to be popular than around this time of the culturally celebrated birth of Yeshua as well as when the winter days allow us time to reflect and review our priorities. ‘Tis the season to look around us and deeply appreciate the many blessings, not focus on the hardships. Trust HaShem has got our backs. Live each day with Him front and center. Share the feeling of His Presence with others. Deeply remember and experience the reality of Yeshua walking each step with us. Share the blessings. Share the love. See ourselves in the homeless and in the downtrodden recognizing nothing separates us other than life’s exigencies, and choices. Focus on our choices. Help others with theirs. Close the judgment eyes and open eyes of love and acceptance. Feel His love by loving others as He loves us. Hasten the day of His return.
You can do this.
‘Tis the season for His return. We are in that season. What a blessing!