God Cares About Sparrows… and Crows
By Dr. Brad Cole
Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And, the hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t worry! You are more valuable to him than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)
Every year our kids are involved in the traditional (and obligatory) Christmas play. Wise men, angels, shepherds, and two lucky children who are asked to play Mary and Joseph. This year, our sons Caleb (9) and James (7) were given the choice to dress up in something that would be fitting in the manger scene. James chose to be a shepherd, which was no problem since he could wear the outfit that Caleb used two years earlier. Caleb, however, had the fixed idea that he wanted to be a crow.
We struggled with how to respond to this persistent request since traditional animals in the manger scene are cows, donkeys and sheep. In the face of an army of little kids dressed neatly as shepherds and angels, wouldn’t a black crow stand out like a sore thumb? Even worse, Caleb is a head taller than most of the other kids in his fourth grade class. Would a very tall crow have the appearance of a vulture lurking over baby Jesus?
After a few gentle attempts to suggest something more traditional, Dorothee finally went to work on a crow costume – a black outfit complete with feathered wings, a black head and beak. Finally the work of art was complete, and it was a very fine crow costume indeed, although perhaps more fitting for a Halloween play.
We watched with just a little more anticipation than usual as the long rows of first graders, then second graders, third graders and finally fourth graders slowly lined the stage. Shepherd, shepherd, angel, shepherd, angel, wise man, shepherd, angel and so on, until finally a large black figure arrived on the stage. The lady sitting behind us whispered to her husband, “Is that a crow?” He replied, “I think that’s a crow.” The man next to me, not knowing that “the crow” was my son, pointed to Caleb and asked, “What is that boy dressed as?”
After a few minutes of taking in the scene, it was clear to us that our son was joyously content to be dressed as a crow. He enjoyed singing the Christmas songs. He bobbed to the music. He gestured at the right times, following the direction of the music director. And even his fourth grade buddies seemed to like his costume, except perhaps for the girl standing next to him who accidently got a few feathers into her mouth everytime Caleb lifted his arms. Our son was innocently happy standing as a crow around baby Jesus even if Dorothee and I couldn’t help but giggle our way through much of the concert.
What does all this have to do with God and His character? Consider these questions. Was God at all interested in such a small matter as a 9-year-old dressing up like a crow? Did God find this situation at all humorous? Did He want to share in the joy and laughter of this small joke with Dorothee and me? If an angel suggested to God that He might appreciate the humor of this large crow towering over the shepherds, did God respond, “Don’t you know that I am omnipresent and fully aware of the situation?” or did He rather share in the laughter?
We sometimes distance God so much from the seemingly trivial things in life. Subconsciously, it is easy to imagine God as stern, serious, and without any sense of humor. After all, with kids starving to death in Africa, how can God possibly enjoy a light and happy moment somewhere else in the world?
The reality is that God is infinitely attentive to every individual in the world, moment by moment. His heart aches with the suffering child in Africa as if she were His only child. And, it goes without saying that he calls all of us to do what we can to give of our time and resources to relieve this suffering. But at the same time, His heart is intimately connected with every other child on the planet (both young and old) – as if they were also the only one. God laughs and God cries, but he is not limited to experiencing only the “important” and weighty matters. If we imagine that God only has time for the really serious things of life, pretty soon our conversation with God becomes limited to asking Him to help the missionaries, the starving children, and for protection at a moment of great peril. That is not the kind of relationship God wants to have with us.
God desires to be a part of our daily thoughts and imagination. While driving to work, mowing the lawn, mopping the floor – even at Christmas plays – God is there hoping to experience a closer relationship. This relationship involves being in constant conversation with God. Small and big stuff, laughing and crying together – God wants to be a part of it all. When we begin to experience God as part of our lives in this way, just as one would share intimacy with a husband or wife, the daily hum-drum of life takes on another dimension. When we live life in union with God, our eyes will be opened to “the big stuff” and perhaps to new possibilities that may advance the kingdom….but along the way we just might share some lighter moments, a meaningful intimacy, and perhaps even a joke or two with God.
And who knows, I think that God may have whispered to Dorothee and me that the crows actually outnumbered the donkeys in the real manger scene….and He should know.