Jesus takes a holiday

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/02/15

Roo & Tug —

This is one of my favorite questions —

What do you suppose Jesus’ favorite holiday is?

It is fun to ask in a group and watch things play out.

Almost every time, someone quick hands the buzzer — Christmas! Easter!

“Naw”, I say, “don’t think so — Those are work days for Jesus. No way he’d pick those.”

The adults usually look at me with some variation of an “OK smartass” grin — but the kids are different.

“Really?”, they ask, leaning in with all sincerity.

“If it’s not Christmas or Easter, then what is it?”

That’s when I tell them it has to be the 4th of July.

: : :

After the guffaws die down, I continue.

The 4th of July is obviously Jesus’ favorite holiday — not because of the fireworks or a “God bless America” twinkle in His eyes.


The airtight proof that the 4th of July is jesus’ favorite holiday comes down to one indisputable fact —

God loves to BBQ.

The most arresting story in the entire Bible is that of the prodigal son — the boy who squanders his inheritance, is knocked to his senses while grazing in a pig trough, and turns back home.

The story up to that point is standard issue Sunday School 101, but then God throws in a twist (just to make sure we are paying attention).

He relays the reaction of the father, his response when he saw his son coming from a long way off. And his reaction was this —

He was overjoyed.

But, he was not “overjoyed” in an abstract, disembodied sort of way.

Not at all.

His joy was made manifest in this — He said, start the BBQ.

: : :

I once told that story in a small church my ex-wife and I were a part of in Cokedale, Colorado. (Yes, I was married once before mom — more on that later).

Folks in the church would measure out bits of Scripture and Story before we took weekly communion — framing that small meal we would share together with some particular rhythm of the Gospel that God had brought to bear on whoever was up there on a given week — reminding us of the practical ways God goes about hammer and tonging a people unto Himself.

Many months after my little table story, Doris Berry came up to tell me how her kids were still talking about Jesus’ favorite holiday — and how they had been convinced that it surely had to be the 4th of July.

: : :

I am some miles outside of Trinidad this morning. It is the summer of 1999 and I have a shovel in my hand.

Pastor Ed had suggested it, after I asked what I could do to help.

The message he left on July 5th said eight-year-old Stuart Berry had been killed. Hit by a car while on vacation.

My understanding is that Stuart died on the 4th of July.

: : :

I always feel helpless in times of tragedy. What do I do? What should I say?

I had a teacher once — in public high school — who would tell us things he probably shouldn’t have. But he was close to retirement and I don’t think he really cared if he got into trouble.

We were talking about what to do in times like these — and he said that the best thing he’d ever come across was to say this —

I know. I care. I am praying.

The instant he said it, I recognized the pattern — mourn with those who mourn.

Don’t try to solve. Don’t cliche it away.

Just weep with those who weep.

So when I heard about Stuart’s death, I sat down and wrote a letter to Dan, Doris and the kids.

I recounted the silly speculation — that inside story we shared about how Jesus is most at home at a BBQ — and how I imagined a place setting for a little boy at a picnic table with a checkered table cloth — where God was saying hello to my friend Stuart.

May the God of BBQ attend your sorrow.

: : :

It is funny how we do not know the effect we have on other people. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is Cliche with a capital “C” for a bunch of really good reasons.

A couple of days after helping dig Stuart’s grave at the church cemetery outside of Bon Carbo, I went to his funeral at the blue roof church in Cokedale.

I had not seen the Berry’s for many months. My first marriage ending had made my participation in that community too painful. So, the first time I had seen Doris for a long time was after the service.

The receiving line was very long. I felt really awkward.

I never know whether any of the stories I tell are a good use of time — or whether other people are just nodding along politely.

But when I got to the front of the line — I got a hug from the frailest of women.

I got a hug that felt like I was getting tackled by the starting center for the Broncos.

Doris wept and thanked me for the letter.

She said, “Thank you so much Bryan, I just read your note yesterday.”

“I was starting to forget Stuart’s face, and you reminded me what he looks like.”

: : :

I’ve got some other “that didn’t really happen, did it?” stories, that I will write down later. God has a way of kibutzing with my rational mind exactly when I need it most.

Keep an eye out for this in your own lives. I am pretty sure He is still active at coordinating Coincidences (with a capital C).

Much love —


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