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The following was originally posted on Voices of Faith

One of my favorite and, yet, most stressful times of the year is here: The run-up to Passover, which begins this year at sunset April 6.

Passover is, of course, the Jewish holiday that commemorates God’s rescue of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt. For messianics, it’s also the festival at which we commemorate the death and resurrection of the Messiah, which mainstream Christians remember with Holy Week and Easter. (This year, they all fall so as to reflect the Gospel accounts, with Passover starting on a Friday night.)

I’ve always loved Passover. A seder, the meal on the first night of Passover, was my first true Jewish experience. Maybe it was the food that cemented it for me. Unlike many people, I love matzah (unleavened bread) and avoid it the rest of the year so I can thoroughly enjoy it at Passover. Plus, you can’t go wrong with charoset, the apple-nut-honey mixture (there are variations) symbolizing the mortar with which the Israelites made bricks while slaves, and maror, the bitter herbs typically expressed in horseradish.

The Passover recipe page on our copy of a book about the Jewish holidays exposes my weakness for Passover: It’s stained with grape juice and encrusted with matzah meal.

And the smell! The kitchen itself rejoices over the smell of the food being cooked for the seder: chicken or brisket for the main course, matzah ball soup, macaroons, a lamb shank bone roasted in the oven earlier in the day to be placed on the seder plate, and whatever other concoctions we’ve decided on that year.

Then there’s the seder itself, the best meal of the year spiritually and physically, not just because of the food. It’s because we’re all dressed up in our Sabbath best, with the white table cloth in place and because as we read through the Haggadah, we are again reminded of God’s grace and mercy because of what He did for the Israelites and because of what He did for all mankind through Yeshua of Nazareth. He rescues us so we can have a relationship with Him, both in this life and in the world to come.

On the other hand, the weeks leading up to Passover are a stress because of the cleaning, the need to remove any leavened food from the house. That doesn’t just mean figuring out what’s got leaven in it and getting it out. It also means cleaning each room and the car. The bedrooms are pretty easy, the living room not so bad, but the kitchen and dining area are labor intensive. We live in a small house, so it’s not really as time-consuming as it could be, but if you want to do it right, you have to be detail-oriented, and that’s where the stress comes in for me.

Thankfully, with two of our children old enough to help meaningfully with the cleaning, it’s not as bad as it used to be. Plus, we’ve done this for so many years that it’s getting easier.

But, just like cleaning the sin out of our lives, getting the leaven out of the house reminds us that we answer to an Authority. Plus, we don’t want to be simply clean on the outside but filthy inside.

All of the spiritual and physical cleaning, though, is followed with the reminder at the seder that we are forgiven, despite our sinfulness and the fact that we don’t deserve any of it. We didn’t deserve to be delivered from Egypt, nor do we deserve to be forgiven of our infinite sinfulness.

It’s all grace, with a bit of matzah added in for good measure.

Mike Miller also blogs at Voices of Faith.