O Lord, some might think these crazy people lined up for blocks in the rain to watch the Cubs or American Idol. It still makes me smile to know they waited to see the Marion, Indiana, Easter pageant. OMG, I know it makes You smile, too.
O Lord, nothing looked deader than the brown, shriveled seeds I planted last spring. But You breathed Your life into them, and now, a hundred colorful reminders of Your Resurrection dance for joy in the west wind. OMG, to think that You can do the same for us, if we let You. Alleluia!
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!
OMG, Thank You for my baby crocuses. Though tiny and socially distanced, they cannot help but sing You a colorful hallelujah chorus!
(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, Hubby and I just planted Scraggly the Lilac. Maybe his fellow shrubs voted him least likely to succeed? Next spring, though, we expect a resurrection. Father, some Mondays I feel like Scraggly. But OMG, thank You that Jesus’ Resurrection helps us blossom and share in His incredible fragrance!
No way, they said. It can’t happen, they said. But OMG, thank You that nothing could or can keep the Resurrection down!
(The following includes the remainder of a fictional interview by first-century writer Caleb. Based on historical Gospel accounts, it takes place soon after Jesus of Nazareth’s execution. As Caleb conducts the interview, using a small tape recorder, Mary Magdalene’s sister, Huldah, stirs a huge pot of stew and occasionally yells at her children.)
Huldah: As I said, Daniel and I weren’t crazy about Mary’s being a groupie, trailing after this rock-star rabbi, Jesus. It’s not like she wasn’t already nutty as a fruitcake. But the more Mary hung with Jesus, the better she got.
We were grateful, though I worried about her reputation when she traveled with Jesus.
Mary thought that was funny. “Huldah, I don’t have a reputation to lose!”
Caleb: How did you feel about Jesus’ enemies?
Huldah: What do you think? I worried. Worried our rabbi would kick Mary out of the synagogue. That she’d get us kicked out, and our business would go bankrupt.
Caleb: What about the Romans’ reaction to Jesus and his followers?
Huldah: Duh! You know they also crucify women, if they’re in the mood.
But when Mary visited weekends, I’d never seen her so … peaceful.
Still, she worried about Jesus. He didn’t do anything wrong. He did everything right! But that didn’t earn him any brownie points. We came here to Jerusalem for Passover, but instead of celebrating, the whole town waited, as if expecting fire to fall. When we heard they’d crucified Jesus, we were scared Mary would hang on a cross next to him.
Caleb: What happened to her?
Huldah: Thank God, the Romans hadn’t harmed her. When Jesus died, we begged Mary to hide outside Jerusalem. But she wanted to help bury him.
Caleb: She’s still okay?
Huldah: I—I don’t know. Mary swears up and down she not only saw but talked to Jesus.
Caleb: She thinks a man survived crucifixion?
Huldah: Yes, she’s crazy happy. Others who claim they saw him are crazy happy. Maybe they’re all loonier than she was in the first place!
Huldah: I know, I know. Roman soldiers are good at their job. I saw Jesus die. Mary saw his followers put the body into a tomb. Yet she won’t back down. She can’t wait to see Jesus again.
Caleb: Um, Huldah, I want to put a positive spin on this. But you need to get Mary some help.
Huldah: If only she’ll come home with us — there she is! Talk to her. Wait. Who is that Man walking behind her?
Caleb: It can’t be —
Huldah: (screaming) Mary’s right! Jesus is alive!
(Caleb’s recorder plopped into the stewpot, and normally, an interview would have been lost forever. But this one, Caleb noted later, he would never forget.)
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: If you could talk to someone who saw Jesus after His Resurrection, who would it be?
(The following fictional interview by first-century writer Caleb is based on historical Gospel accounts, taking place soon after Jesus of Nazareth’s execution. As Caleb adjusts a small tape recorder, Mary Magdalene’s sister, Huldah, stirs a huge pot of stew.)
Caleb: Huldah, thanks for agreeing to talk with me about Mary.
Huldah: Yeah, yeah. People are saying crazy stuff, so maybe I can clear up a few rumors.
Caleb: To keep things straight for readers, we’re discussing Mary Magdalene.
Huldah: There are a million Marys running around. Mom and Dad gave her the popular name, of course. Leave that alone! (She waves a big spoon at the curious kid sneaking behind Caleb, then apologizes.) Sorry. I didn’t mean you.
Caleb: Um … no problem. You’re her older sister?
Huldah: Yeah, been looking out for Mary since forever. She was always different … then she started hearing voices. Saw stuff that wasn’t there. Got really mean. Our parents passed her around to relatives like she was a bad cold. Before they died, they made me promise to take care of her.
Caleb: Mary met Jesus, called the Christ, didn’t she?
Huldah: Yeah. She’d wandered off, out of her head. I said, “Good riddance!” Maybe Daniel and I could enjoy some peace. But we had to look for her. She’d joined those groupies following Jesus, the rock-star rabbi.
I said to Daniel, “Just great. Sounds like he runs a medicine show.”
Caleb: Upon seeing you, how did Mary react?
Huldah: Mary doesn’t hug anybody — she slugs ’em. But this time, she hugged me. Then she laughed! I couldn’t remember the last time I heard her laugh.
Caleb: I saw Jesus, maybe twice. Did you?
Huldah: Yeah. For a rock star, he wasn’t real good-lookin’. There was nothing special about Jesus, until he talked — and healed a leper who used to live next door.
I told Daniel, “I’ll take his brand of crazy, anytime.” Turns out, the more Mary was around Jesus, the better she got.
Caleb: Has she regressed since then?
Huldah: Well … you be the judge of that, after you hear the whole story.
To be continued tomorrow, April 25.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever considered what happened the week after Easter? And don’t you just hate “to be continued” stories?