The absence of light temporarily suppressed my spirit of independence as I roused from my restless sleep. I sat up quickly.
I rubbed the rapidly escalating bump on my forehead. I must have rolled several feet in my sleeping back during the night. I never expected to hit my head on the Ping-Pong table. Yet…there it was. I tried to adjust to the darkness. It was futile.
She had been awake for what seemed eons. I heard her rouse many hours ago…thumping across the upstairs floor. Into her bathroom, out again, into the kitchen, out again!
thump, clump, clack, shlack.
She wants us to wake up. She has to. She’s NOT being quiet on purpose…that’s for sure.
Normally, this concerned me. Why did she think we all wanted (or probably more accurately) NEEDED to wake up at five in the morning. Like a drill sergeant with the two lids from some pre-Rubbermaid garbage cans, Grandma clanged and banged a couple cast iron pans together and then listened to find out if her technique was effective.
“Good morning!” She exclaimed. Apparently, a few more adults had moseyed into the dining room.
That morning was different, however. It was the 4th of July. Grandma’s thumping, clumping, clacking, shlacking, banging, and clanging was welcomed by anyone under the age of 13. Every one of us shut down in the rec room—confined in down sleeping bags and pressing darkness—was consumed with excitement.
I beamed…awaiting this glorious day. I had a new red, white, and blue tank top with matching shorts waiting in my suitcase. I knew my dad would have two dollars ready and waiting the second I ascended the staircase from the basement. Two whole dollars to spend on whatever I wanted—Orange Crush or Sunkist, ring pops, and popcorn. The parade would deliver tootsie rolls and suckers, we would choose the best float, eat watermelon and spit out the seeds (you know—real watermelon…not that fake seedless kind), we’d enjoy grilled burgers, fresh potato salad, and BBQ chips. Then we’d spin around until we almost puked on the witches hat, play with our cousins who instantaneously became our best friends, drinking more pop than we were allowed to drink the rest of the year, soaking in the sun during the softball game, picking out which station wagon will win the demolition derby this year, and finishing the day with fireworks on an old blanket. It just didn’t get any better than that…and we LOVED it…and we anticipated it…and we were ready for it!
As I reflect on those days, I wonder why I don’t get that excited anymore. I wonder why I don’t anticipate glory the way I did then. I wish I did. I want to. I need to. As followers of Jesus, we all need to. We need to anticipate his glory with excitement and full-on expectation. I don’t. Most of us don’t. And that’s unfortunate, isn’t it?
Toward the end of the book of Numbers, the Israelites were on the banks of the Jordan. The smell of milk and honey penetrated their senses. Excitement filled the air. They had been sleeping in the darkness and the dessert for years. God was thumping, clumping, clacking, shlacking, banging, and clanging on the tops of their tents. They were about to receive two dollars to spend on whatever they wanted. They were about to watch the parade of their lifetime, drink more pop than they ever imagined they could drink, play with their cousins, see a demo derby, and watch the best firework show of their lifetime. This was an exciting time for them.
Before the blasting of the trumpets along the walls of Jericho, God provided them with instructions on how to celebrate seven festivals or feasts. Every September, our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate one of those festivals. A festival called Rosh HaShanah. Rosh HaShanah is often referred to as “The Feast of Trumpets.” Prior to Rosh HaShannah, the shofar (also referred to as the ram’s horn or the trumpet) is blown. The blowing of the trumpets is a call for the people of God to repent and anticipate their judgment, redemption, and full reconciliation—a restored relationship with their Creator.
Many eschatological theologians (those people who study the end-times) believe that Jesus fulfilled all of the spring biblical feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost) in His first coming. They also believe that Jesus will fulfill the fall biblical feasts (Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles) in His second coming. According to this perspective, Rosh HaShannah will be the time when Jesus returns…the resurrection of the dead…it will be the day when Christians are raised to new life. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Paul also mentions the blowing of the trumpet and the excited anticipation of Christ’s return in his letter to the Thessalonians: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
In His speech about the end times, Jesus references the blowing of the trumpet as it relates to His glorious return. Matthew writes, “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31).
It’s interesting, immediately after Jesus’ speech about the end times, He tells a parable about ten virgins or brides. In this parable, ten brides took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. Of course, like the typical groom, he had been out all night for his bachelor party, and was running late. Naturally, the brides fell asleep waiting for him. Unfortunately, in the grooms delay, the foolish brides had run out of oil and had to make a mad dash to the oil store for replacement oil. When the groom finally arrived, the foolish brides missed the groom. They weren’t ready…they weren’t prepared. Jesus finished the parable saying, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:1-13).
During Jesus’ time, a bridegroom would propose to His bride by offering her a cup of wine. If she drank the cup, she accepted his proposal. After acceptance, the future groom would leave the young woman to “prepare a place” for her. Basically, make sure their three bedroom condo was up to par. His return, announced by trumpets, could occur unexpectedly. She, therefore, would wait patiently and full of excitement while she anticipated the day when her groom would carry her away.
I’m not sure when Jesus will return. No one is, except our Father in Heaven. I’m not convinced it will happen on Rosh Hashanah either. I do, however, always reflect on Jesus’ return when the Jews are celebrating this holiday every September. I most definitely should do so more often. Every time we drink—anything—not just during communion—we should stop and remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. Not only that, but we also should remember that we accepted Jesus’ marriage proposal and we accepted Him as our groom, our redeemer, and our Lord. We also promised to wait in excited anticipation (with extra oil) while He prepares a place for us.. Because we are confident that someday he’ll return for us…and when that happens there’s going to be a huge parade with tootsie rolls and suckers, watermelon, a giant witches hat, all the orange crush we can drink, a demo derby full of station wagons, and a fireworks display beyond our imagination.
And it definitely won’t get better than that!