Saturday, December 24, 2016

Taste and See

Christmas brings our senses alive with smells, sights, sounds, and tastes galore. Can you imagine the taste of plum pudding. Perhaps you have never had it with thick white sauce and brandy added and even lighted to caramelize the mixture. The pudding is like an ancient dark fruitcake, full of dried fruits and nuts. Many families have traditions with food and drink that are unique to the holiday season. These tastes for me include the 300-year old Daughters of Charity fruitcake recipe that I have baked for nearly 50 years. The cinnamon, nutmeg and clove mix with the dark molasses, butter and orange juice, drizzled with brandy that seems to explode from the bowl. For some, fruitcake brings bad memories. For me it is nostalgic with my favorite “Flying Nun” boss and her bountiful Christmas parties that lighted up St. Mary’s Hospital each year. She would open the feast with a prayer and toast of thanksgiving to the many hospital caregivers. Standing rib roasts and stuffed Cornish hens were garnished with candied apples and fruit. Candles flickered throughout the dining room, as the sent of pineapple glaze on the baked hams and sweet potatoes wafted through the air. She would end the feasts with entertainment of madrigal singers and Baked Alaska. This mesmerizing smell of this high white meringue dessert, flambĂ©ed to brown the top, tickled the nose.  Cognac and liquors were poured all around. “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in him(Psalm 34:8).

Can you taste and see the Lord? It is easy for me to remember, my senses speaking of the good things the Lord had provided us throughout the year and this Christmas season. He is also in the swirling snow, flickering in the brilliant colored lights on the pine tree outside the living room window. The full moon sets above, etched gleaming silver in the pre-dawn frigid temperatures. I can hear the snow plows in the distance and the soft church bells muffled by the deep new fallen snow. The shadows of trees stretch across the blanketed yard, reaching to the dark pointed spruce forest beyond. It is below zero this morning, but the sweetness of the scene makes the tastes and sights come alive with warmth.

As I warm up inside, my clothes are steaming from shoveling another half-foot of light, fluffy snow crystals. The hot robust coffee does too, is warming me through and through.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).  As I close my Bible from my early morning devotional, the words have not only jumped off the page, they have come alive in all my senses. God’s word is truth and guidance to my way. It is sharper than a two-edged sword, but more comforting than a hot bubble bath after a long day at the hospital. It is sweeter than honey to me as it warms my heart and opens my spirit to aspiring thoughts and the sense of God’s presence and peace. This is the power of God’s word, the Bible. The psalmist says, “I am consumed with longing for your word” as he delights and meditates on the wonders of the words. Is that how God’s word affects you? If not, perhaps you have not really come to know God and His personal love through His promises and statutes, as He desires for you. I pray you come to a place where all of your senses like Psalm 119 portrays will come alive. Then you will be praying to God the words, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”  (Psalm 19:14).  This psalm says that the Word revives the soul, and it is pure and enduring, radiant and giving joy to the heart. The words are perfect going out to the ends of the earth. “They are more precious than gold; than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from a comb” (Psalm 19:10).

This Season is bringing home the intimacy of the Christmas story for me, and may it be for you too. Reread Luke 2 telling the story of Jesus’s birth. Be moved in spirit with all of your senses and slow down. Hear again the anthem of the angels and the company of heavenly hosts praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14). Take in the scene the shepherds experienced in astonishment. Can you “treasure up all these things” like Mary and “ponder them in your heart?”   Merry Christmas!

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