O Lord, my narrow-minded calendar declares Easter is over and done. But OMG, for days afterward, the springtime world will shout out Your Resurrection! Alleluia!
This post first appeared on April 12, 2017.
For years, I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter, I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.
During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.
Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”
Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles.
Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®.
What other option existed?
God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.
However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?
Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.
The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.
Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.
Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.
Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.
Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.
One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”
Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.
Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God.” It meant daily life with stupid sheep and deadly encounters with wolves in sheep’s clothing. What God in His right mind would do that?
Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.
Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which, BTW, means “lamb.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?
Jesus, I know You’re eternal, but for us, a half-century holds a lot of years. M*A*S*H is more than a half-century old. Nerf balls were invented half a century ago. OMG, I never thought I’d say this, but, oh, to be ONLY a half-century old!
(Note: I wrote this piece in 2019, with no idea of what lay ahead. Reviewing it, I thought it might prove even more relevant for Christmas 2020.)
Children nowadays text Santa with requests. Some use PowerPoint presentations. (“Last year, you brought a baby brother instead of a puppy. Seriously, Santa, you and Amazon Prime really messed up.”)
Yet, up-close-and-personal encounters continue as children assure Santa they’ve been good. He probably doesn’t do background checks, because even mean kids make out like Christmas bandits.
The majority, however, look scared.
Reading storybooks on Mommy’s lap about jolly St. Nick felt cozy and familiar.
Sitting on a big, bearded hippie’s lap doesn’t. Children inform the entire mall this wasn’t their idea. The only photos taken feature close-ups of tonsils. Or kids’ calling Uber for a ride to Bongo Bongo.
Yet loving grown-ups assure them, “Don’t be afraid.”
They’d never endanger children. Even hired Santas probably would have found easier work — like digging ditches — if they didn’t care about kids.
The children are safe. Cherished.
I find similar, odd “fear nots” in the biblical Christmas story.
When the angel Gabriel told Mary about her impossible pregnancy. When another urged Joseph to marry her, carrying a Child not his. When shepherds hit the ground before a regiment of angels. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had real reasons to be afraid.
These strange visitors weren’t wearing wings and halos from Dollar Tree. Seeing genuine angels today while shoveling snow or brewing coffee — who wouldn’t set Olympic records for the 10-mile dash?
Besides, the angels’ words smacked of the revolutionary.
In Mary’s culture, a woman pregnant with a supposedly illegitimate Child might be stoned. A man who married her would bear her stigma, affecting relationships and his job. Having left flocks untended, the shepherds also might lose their meager livelihood.
Worse, the angels proclaimed the Baby was a King. Paranoid Herod, who killed family members, considered that high treason. Also, Romans readily crucified anyone who didn’t worship Caesar.
Crazy times. Terrible times. Yet God’s message rang out: “Fear not.”
Today, we want to call Uber and escape this scary mess. Go to Bongo Bongo. Or Neptune.
Adult Jesus did, too. He knew His enemies would kill him. Yet, His life vibrated with that theme: “Fear not.”
Jesus could have blown away his foes. Instead, He used His murder to pay for human sin. Then, He laughed at death — that thing we fear most — and rose again.
Jesus wants us to know if we believe in Him, we are safe. Now. Forever. Loved. Cherished.
He wasn’t kidding Mary, Joseph or the shepherds. He isn’t kidding us, either. Or our children and grandchildren bawling on Santa’s lap.
Joy and peace to you this Christmas.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you trusting Jesus for 2021 — and your forever?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16 NIV
O Lord, not a normal Christmas! We exchanged gifts with family, not around our Christmas tree, but met in a park we’d never seen before. Sharing fervent, but distanced love and hot chocolate to combat chilly Michigan weather helped, but — crazy!
What’s that? OMG, of course, You’re right. The first Christmas was pretty crazy, too.
O Lord, You and I both recall the Christmas I carried my first child — a blessed miracle. However, the smell of Grandma’s traditional Christmas spareribs sent my stomach spinning like a Tilt-a-Whirl®. Not so wonderful. OMG, Mary, who probably traveled to Bethlehem while in early labor, knew what tough miracles were all about.
O, Lord, I hope all the gifts I ordered arrive on time. Um … exactly what did I order? But OMG, when You sent the greatest Gift of all, Your Son, You knew exactly what You’d given. You got Him in the right place at the right time — even without Amazon Prime.
O Lord, when I was a kid, gratitude didn’t come easy. Mom would prompt, “What do you say?” and I’d mutter the “Thank you” that got grown-ups off my back. In 2020, it doesn’t come easy, either. Still, OMG, thank You. Thank You. Thank You!
Do you find a visit to another locale revamps your life?
My husband and I did, when we postponed our house’s new siding and, instead, journeyed to Israel.
Overseas flying resembles being locked in stocks. Announcements ending with, “A pleasant night to you and dear children. We are hoped oxygen-air work” did not reassure us. Still, flight attendants gave us menus. We Americans, accustomed to toss-pretzels-to-the-masses treatment, exchanged wide-eyed glances. Steaming hand towels preceded exotic meats, vegetables marinated in spices and oven-warm bread.
“You’re eating eggplant?” I stared at Hubby.
“Mmm.” He munched away.
“Would you eat eggplant at home?”
Even a holy pilgrimage can exert only so much influence on a husband.
We landed in Tel Aviv and, wobbling from jet lag, began a week-long feast of scenes straight from our Bibles. We saw where Joshua watched Jericho’s walls collapse. Where Deborah, Israel’s only woman judge, advised generals. Where David defeated a giant, hid in scorpion-infested desert caves from his insane father-in-law, and finally triumphed as king.
Our guide said the Sea of Galilee’s waves could morph into 12-foot monsters if the wind changed moods. They could sink a boatload of disciples, past or present, without the help of a walking-on-the-water Storm Specialist.
Perhaps Jesus and His disciples, as our group did, swam in the Dead Sea, guffawing as they struggled to anchor their floating feet.
We experienced the ancient buildings of Jerusalem, its narrow, crooked streets, and tunnel-like marketplaces, a seeming combination of mall and dungeon; Cana, where Jesus partied and turned water into wine; and the Mount of Olives, where He cried and prayed.
We stood inside two possible sites of His burial, tombs where Jesus carefully folded the cloth that had covered His dead face before exiting — then scared the daylights out of His disciples!
Some scenes we viewed, though, were never seen by Jesus. Veiled women wearing earphones. Camels tied outside filling stations. Souvenir shops selling Cubs shirts with Hebrew characters. Hard-eyed young men with machine guns in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace.
Fortunately, most memories call up different images:
Gushing waterfalls in a deadly desert.
Rowdy bar mitzvah processions celebrating skinny 13-year-olds under canopies surrounded by boogying relatives, drummers and virtuoso clarinet players who ritually run down tourists.
Market booths boasting Israel’s favorite fast food, falafel, consisting of deep-fried chickpeas.
“You’re eating that?” I stared at Hubby.
He chomped away. “Mmm. Could you make this?”
Even a holy pilgrimage can exert only so much influence on me.
Still, a visit to another locale can revamp your life. Crammed in an 11-hour ride home, you find yourself dreaming of when you can return.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever walked where Jesus walked?
Wishing you a blessed Christmas as I share this painting by my late mother, Betty Oglesbee. Largely untaught, Mom understood there was much more to newborn Jesus than just a cute baby!
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and … to reconcile to himself all things … through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20