Here in Florida — the land of palm branches a-plenty — one can actually find them scattered about to wave for Palm Sunday. Even if it’s only one palm frond you find in your backyard and you wave it as a personal worship celebration, and incidentally, for the amusement of your two young pups.
It is so much fun to watch their delight as you wave it to and fro. “Hosanna,” you say. “Hosanna.” You say this quietly, hoping the neighbors are not bothered by your odd behavior. But wave it you do and wave it some more as you see how delighted your pups are to play with it. Like kittens with a ball of string, Brittany Buddy and Retriever Lily, jump and frolic and lunge for the fronds. Finally, you give in and toss it in the air for them to catch. They each grab an end and tug and tussle, happily pulling it from each other. What fun! A new toy!
Ah, but then Lily gets a strong grip; she grabs and runs. Buddy gives chase. Lily spins, Buddy misses. Buddy grabs, Lily latches on and tugs it away again. Buddy gets frustrated and growls at Lily. She romps away to sit with her acquisition and rip, rip, rip the fronds. Buddy snarls and bites at her back. Not so playful anymore. Lily protects and defends what’s left. The palm branch is now in shreds.
On any other day, these two are inseparable. Where one goes the other follows. If one leaves, the other whines in protest. They share a common water bowl. They will eat from the same food bowl without complaint. They take turns when snacks are offered, never denying the other his due. And yet… when there is one treasured prize, the mild manner is left behind.
This is mine. Not yours. Because this is mine, it cannot be yours.
Somehow, this seems an apt and unfortunate metaphor for what can be divisive and ugly interactions between Christians in our day. As if there weren’t enough palm fronds to go around. As if Jesus were a limited or scarce commodity. As if my claim on Him meant you couldn’t have Him.
Nope. Today’s palm branches signify the welcome of a humble king and invite a willingness to follow. Wherever He leads us. No one said that Christ-following would be easy, not the least of all Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, knowing for certain what lay ahead. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)
So soon they would ring out, “Crucify him!” (John 19:15)
As we enter into this Holiest of weeks and follow Christ through the most harrowing of circumstances, let us give grateful thanks for His life, His ministry, and the way He made for us to follow. A way that promises abundant life with plenty to share.
Let’s not fight over who gets to wave the palm branch.
No! I shout from two rooms away
Just before the laundry towel is in shreds.
No, not that! I shudder,
tugging paws, teeth and body from velour pillow
now christened where some have laid their heads.
When my kids call me “classic,” it’s their not-so-veiled way of calling me old.
While growing older is something I can’t avoid, and don’t want to, given the alternative, old is not a way I want to be, especially not at Christmas.
It used to be easy to do kid-stuff when our children were small. Our Christmas season was filled with holiday fun for them. Getting the tree, decorating, baking cookies, caroling, pageants, parties, stringing lights or popcorn, making crafts, shopping, wrapping … oh, and keeping secret what was under the tree. That might have been the best part of all because it invited those little wondering minds to sneak under the tree when they thought I wasn’t looking to snoop, look at tags and maybe even give that box a shake or two. What delight there is in a child’s wonder! Some things never get old.
Somehow, though, as I have gotten older, the preparations have lost their luster. The kids do their own thing and their Christmas lists have gotten shorter. The gifts are more expensive, more detailed, and often just a request in an email link so I get just the right thing. After all, you can’t count on old mom to know where to get the latest in fashion, fad or technology. Gone are the snooping, the shaking and the secrets. When did we lose the wonder?
This year, however, we have puppies. Two adorable, energetic, exhausting, did I say lovable puppies, and they are full of mischief. The world is their play-thing; everything is for investigating, nibbling, tugging, splashing, eating, or pouncing on. Play is their purpose. Wonder is their world.
When did I lose this? Can it be retrieved? That’s when I came across this in a magazine on my counter:
“Once a day, do what a kid would do.”
I could do this. I could … jump in the leaves, roll down the hill, splash in the puddle, gallop up the driveway… I could let play back in, classic play, simply by asking ‘what would a kid do?’ A kid would look at the lights in the sky and wonder if they could ever fly there. A kid would listen to the shrill whistle of a bird and wonder how a tiny animal could be SO LOUD. A kid would smell the smoky winter air and wonder which neighbor had a fire going and whether there were marshmallows.
Somehow, doing what a kid does even has me wondering what a kid thinks. The recipe? Fond memories, a still vivid imagination, some zany puppies, and an Advent pledge: “once a day, do what a kid would do.”
Unfortunately, what was so easy when the kids were small, now takes dedicated effort. So far I am resisting the urge to Google ‘how to be a kid.’ After all, spontaneity is the door to childhood and wonder is the key. I am putting my foot down: this Advent, I refuse to be an old fart. Wait, can I say that? Why yes, I’m a kid.
If kid gets too hard, maybe I’ll channel a puppy or two. Do you know the best thing about puppies? Even when they are engrossed in tussling and tugging on each other’s ears, they stop and run to you in sheer delight whenever you enter the room. Maybe that’s what will grow in me this Advent season, sheer delight when I see my Master coming.
Here’s the challenge: once a day, do what a kid would do. Of course, my kids will be completely embarrassed by me. Someday, when they have kids, I hope they’ll understand.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 18:3