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What about the camels?

December 19, 2021

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11)

Sometimes, without any warning, God drops a surprise in your lap which will bring “good tidings of great joy” but He doesn’t seem to check with you first. What if you’re really busy or there isn’t enough room? What if it’s just not a convenient time for “good tidings of great joy?” What’s Old Is New Again!

What do you do when a 13-foot camel is dropped in your proverbial lap? Recently, a Methodist artist living in north Georgia contacted the Moore Methodist Museum asking to donate her life-sized, papier mâché nativity. She had initially created it for her church’s Christmas parade and had continued to add pieces to the collection throughout the years. The exhibit, entitled “O Holy Night,” had been displayed in north Georgia several times and is currently on display at their local cultural arts center. However, she was ready to give the nativity to a worthwhile ministry and was interested in the Moore Methodist Museum.

My first response was to absolutely accept this donation. The exhibit will be amazing and people will love it. I could visualize all of the good press and almost hear the accolades. The next step, however, brought me back to reality. Just where would we put a 13-foot camel? After measuring our ceiling heights, I can accurately say that they range from 8.5 feet to 9.5 feet, but they are nowhere near tall enough for “O Holy Night.” This fact narrowed down the location of the new collection to the Rotunda, but, if I remember correctly, we already have a rather tall display in that room, namely the chocolate statue of John Wesley. He simply cannot be moved.

The next decision to be made involved transporting these rather large pieces from north Georgia to St. Simons Island where they would now reside. This, we thought, could be done easily by hiring a moving company to bring them south but, after getting estimates, the next best idea was to have Cindy and me drive rented U-Haul trucks full of papier mâché through Atlanta after Christmas but before New Year’s Day. Now, that’s an image that will be hard to forget.

Half of the people we’ve polled regarding “O Holy Night” have stated that it is just too much: too big, too many pieces, too much time, too much effort, not enough Methodism. These sentiments are all quite understandable and reasonable. The other half we’ve polled have said, yes, it’s too much, but how often is a life-sized, papier mâché nativity given freely with faith, hope, and love? Is this a blessing from God which is worth the time, effort, and energy?

This leads me back beautifully to the season of Advent, a time to prepare. Prepare for good tidings of great joy. Prepare for the Messiah, the Savior, Emmanuel. It must have been a bit inconvenient for the shepherds to leave their flocks in the field to find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. The kings who traveled so far with only a star to guide them may have thought twice about whether it was worth the trip. Oh, was it worth the trip!

I cannot yet tell you if a life-sized, papier mâché nativity will reside in the Moore Methodist Museum, but I pray that God brings you “good tidings of great joy” this holiday season and that you have enough time, enough room, and enough sense to accept them.

Merry Christmas.

Anne Packard serves as Conference Historian and director of the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum on St. Simons Island. Contact her at director@mooremuseum.org.

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