It is definitely Christmas.  I am drinking apple cider.  I am eating more cookies, brownies, and chocolate (both hot and solid).  I have been to see Christmas lights at the temple and Christmas lights at the zoo.  Both my office and my living room have Christmas trees.  And when Christmas songs come up on rotation in my iTunes shuffle, I don’t trigger finger next them.  I listen all the way through, singing softly in my office.  In Dulci Jubilo . . . Oh that we were there!  Oh that we were there!

But recently when I have wanted to feel the Christmas spirit during my moments of scripture study and reverie, I have felt drawn not to Luke 2 but to Exodus, and a moment involving the children of Israel, water, and, of course, a miracle.

Exodus 15: 22-26.

22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.

23 ¶ And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.

24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?

25 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

26 And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.

With Egypt and the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s men tumbling behind them, the children of Israel faced their future, and it was a desert.  They were discouraged.  But God in His mercy brought them to water, for which they were grateful, I am sure.  Except—when they went to drink, they couldn’t.  It was bitter.

So they cried, as I would have cried: “What shall we drink?”

Moses prayed, and God showed him what to do.  Take this tree, He said.  And cast it in the waters, and the tree will make the waters sweet.

Moses obeyed.  Presumably, the Israelites drank and weren’t thirsty and were grateful.  The Lord then promised them that if they’d “diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes,” He would not curse them the way He had cursed the Egyptians.  In fact, He would heal them.

When the Israelites had heard this covenant (and, we guess, at least preliminarily agreed), God brought them from the waters of Marah to Elim

27 ¶ . . . where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.

This Christmas, I am thirsty for the waters of Christ.  And I have been praying that God will build in my heart a wellspring, filled with “water springing up into everlasting life,” so I may drink and never thirst. (John 4:14)

I like that the children of Israel’s first experience with being thirsty in the wilderness ended with a story about a tree, and a promise that God could heal the things that were bitter.

The tree will make the waters sweet.  “For I am the Lord that healeth thee.”

A Christmas tree, a mug of wassail, a song of peace and joy: these tell the story God tries to tell us over and over and over again, the very story He acted out with the children of Israel when they were strangers in a desert.

A thrill of hope.  The weary world rejoices.  For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.