I was one of the women at the empty tomb. I had prepared to go and there I was surprised by the angel Gilbert. Oops. I mean the angel Gabriel. My husband Gilbert and I were part of the "Living Christmas Story" presented by Hoodview Church of God.
The story includes 11 scenes starting with the angel telling Mary she's going to have a son, later the woman at the well and concluding with the empty tomb.
Imagine the Catholic Church's stations of the cross, but done with people and real animals. For years, Hoodview has offered this Christmas treat to encourage all of us to consider Jesus' message of hope and joy (and) his offer of eternal life with Him.
This year Gilbert and I were invited to participate It sounded like fun and we said yes. I didn't know participating was going to touch my heart.
I hope you have had that experience of immediate acceptance and being at ease when getting together with longtime friends or with family. Before showing up, Gilbert and I were not sure what we had gotten ourselves into, but we found out it was family time.
Picture a big room. The church had set up their fellowship hall with clothing racks for the costumes, tables with our props and a table full of homemade snacks. We enjoyed the chili, soup and desserts so much that I asked if I could come back the night we weren't participating and just eat.
We found out who we were to portray I was at the empty tomb. Gilbert was in the same scene. That's when he started joking about being the angel Gilbert.
We didn't have to tell our life story nor present our credentials. We could joke around and hang out together. That was very nice.
In my assigned scene, I stared at the angel. The Living Story is still life. Zip the lip and hold still. In character, the woman at the tomb stared at the angel and I realized that woman heard the truth of Jesus' resurrection directly from the angel.
The lightbulb went on for me. The disciples didn't readily believe the women when they said Jesus had risen from the dead because the women had heard it from the angels, but the disciples were getting the fantastic news secondhand.
Secondhand news is harder to believe. When considering Jesus, I urge you to read one of the gospel stories for yourself. Picture yourself within the action.
The second of the three nights of the event was again a heart experience. Seeing the involvement of families, especially the young children, was encouraging. Several times, a family's child would say they wanted to walk through again. And so they did.
Today, it's not too late to experience Jesus' story. Read about his life in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Listen to the words of a Christmas song. Next time a Christian friend invites you to church, say, yes. Earnestly look for God. You'll find Him.
Suzanne Ybarra's book, What Does a Christian Look Like? Essays on the Reality of God and His Love for Us, will be available in February 2022.
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