Nehemiah had guts. As cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes during the Babylonian exile of the Jews, he was the king’s last defense between a poisoned drink and death. Every day Nehemiah’s life was at stake.
Every day required supernatural courage to perform his duties. And Nehemiah knew where to find it.
So when he went to Jerusalem and finished rebuilding the wall with the returned captives, he could hardly wait to share the book of the Law of Moses with the people. But when they heard it, they wept.
Nehemiah said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
It’s tempting to focus on weaknesses and dangers. But that’s like focusing the beam of a lighthouse so narrowly on the shoals, we can’t see the safe harbor just ahead.
Nehemiah reminds us to open our eyes to enjoy God, to share His gifts with others, and to rejoice because He has accomplished all His purposes. Our joy is in His sufficiency, and in that joy is our strength.
In keeping with Nehemiah’s instruction, here are info and directions for the Celebration Branch, as promised. The idea of a branch comes from Leviticus.
“Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches, and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:,40)
The people of Israel gathered branches to make shelters for the Feast of Booths, a week-long Thanksgiving celebration after the harvest.
To celebrate the arrival of a newborn, foster, or adopted child, hang photos, shoes, rattles, toys, words of welcome, etc. For an exchange student, add welcomes in English and their native language, and brochures about places to share.
In Autumn, use artificial leaves, pencils, crayons, grades and photos of each school child and phrases about their hopes and dreams for the year.
At Thanksgiving, hang photos, drawings, or lists of things you’re grateful for, along with hand print or pine cone turkeys, strings of candy corn, etc.
The Celebration Branch is a perfect place for Jesse Tree, Advent, or other traditional Christmas ornaments including candy canes, stars, evergreen sprigs, snowflakes, Nativity figures, or gold ribbon.
Small cards with Easter promises can dangle amongst fresh or artificial flowers such as forsythia and lilies, along with other symbols of new life such as eggs and chicks.
Birthday or baptism celebrations might include the photo of a child, interests, strengths, testimony, favorite things, and other clues of how God has made them, such as small toys and books.
For summer vacation with the cousins, we hung crayon resist watercolors of flowers, frogs, and butterflies (See my post, “How to Make a Luscious Crayon Resist).
As you can see, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Here’s how to make your Celebration Branch:
- Take a walk in the woods and look for an interesting branch with lots of smaller twigs. Mine is a fir branch about five feet long, but yours can be longer or shorter as you desire.
- Remove leaves or needles from the branch and trim the side twigs until your branch is a pleasing shape.
- Hang the branch from your ceiling with several large eye hooks and strong string, making certain you screw at least some of the hooks through drywall into wood at each end so the branch can’t fall and hurt someone.
- Jazz up your branch with ribbon, bias-cut fabric, vines, lights, or glitter glue before you decorate it.
- Poke tiny holes in your decorations and hang them from your branch with light string or thread.
- Finally, friends, when you look at the branch, remember to rejoice in the God who gives you courage for each day, as He gave Nehemiah.
“Rejoice in all your doings in which the Lord Your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:7, The Fifth Book of the Law of Moses)