It is hard and tiring, this Dementia-caregiving journey. Perhaps the thing that seems the hardest is the sheer length of years and days. The first time I noticed that there was something amiss with John's ability to read, write and process words was two weeks after our wedding. That is almost twelve years ago! Understanding and diagnoses have come very slowly over the years. Time has ticked on and I have faithfully walked this journey with him, but now I am feeling the weariness.
Our God hung the huge, full, shimmering Feast-of-Tabernacles moon in the sky last night, right on schedule! He never ceases to amaze me. Every year on the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Passover, on the Hebrew calendar, the moon floods the heavens with the reminder that the God of Israel never changes. His cycles and moedim (appointed times), or feast days, are sure and everlasting! We can count on Him to do what He says He will do, when He says He will do it and where He chooses to do it! His promises are sure and His Word is True.
This morning I brought my husband, John, his first cup of coffee and poured one for myself, then settled in beside him in our living room. I opened up the new book I just got by Carl Gallups. The title is Glimpses of Glory. I told John I would begin reading to him in the next chapter where I left off. The chapter was titled O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Gallups was painting a picture of Mary and Joseph's arrival in the city of Bethlehem and their search for a place where Mary could deliver the baby that was already showing signs of emerging from the womb. His words brought this whole intense scene to life in a thrilling way, and as I read aloud to John, a memory of something I discovered many years ago came back to me. I remembered how I once studied out the ancient prophecies that foretold this very event: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth (Micah 5:8). And yet another prophecy from Micah 4:8, "And you, O Tower of the Flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come. Even the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem."
I learned about this on one of my many trips to Israel, and this morning I recalled how many unknowns in this story became stunningly alive and real to me. Questions about the birth of Jesus were gloriously answered as I came to understand what the Tower of the Flock actually was in those days. It wasn't just any ordinary tower and the flock was not just any normal flock of sheep. The Tower of the Flock was the place where the priestly-appointed Temple shepherds brought the pregnant sheep to give birth to the pure, unblemished little male lambs that would be used in the Temple as sin offerings. Inside this special tower were "birthing rooms" just for this purpose. The rooms were kept as clean as possible and when these carefully chosen lambs were born, they were wrapped in strips of cloth known as swaddling cloths, so that they would not fall or injure themselves before the Temple shepherds could deliver them to the Temple. As Gallups points out, "the lambs had to be perfect upon delivery, or they could not be used as the sin sacrifice for the people." Does this not send shivers up your spine? How perfectly God arranged every detail of the Messiah's birth in order to fulfill the prophecies in His Word! Once Joseph had exhausted all possibilities for a room where his beloved wife could give birth to their son, as a "last resort" he turned from the city and went back the short distance to this tower, where God Himself had arranged a birthing room for the Pure, Spotless Lamb who would become the Messiah, the Ruler of Israel and the whole world!
Perhaps, as Gallups imagines, those prophecies came flooding back into Joseph's mind as he attended to Mary in her labor. There they were, in Bethlehem, as the prophet Micah foretold, and in the very Tower of the Flock where the revealing of the Kingdom of God would be brought forth.
All of this was powerful enough, but suddenly it came to me that I was reading this chapter and pondering the glory and the wonder of it all on the very first day of the Feast of Tabernacles! Long ago I gave up the pagan notion of a December 25th birth date for our Lord. I knew that had been borrowed from the birth date of Molech, the pagan god. And so I had begun to embrace the more likely idea that the Savior would have been born during the Feast of Tabernacles, in the Fall, when many lambs were being birthed and prepared for sacrifices and when it was still warm enough for shepherds to still be out in their fields at night, keeping watch around the Tower. Tears started to stream down my face as I wondered if I was reading this chapter of this book on this very day as some sort of confirmation from the Holy Spirit. It moved me deeply to think that perhaps today is the day I really should be singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The words still ring true and touch my heart in this season of the Feast of Tabernacles. The word tabernacle literally means "dwelling place." In what other season would God bring forth His son, wrapped in swaddling cloths, prepared from birth as a pure, perfect sin offering?
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see Thee lie
Above Thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in Thee tonight
Kelly Ferrari Mills