The curtain lifts on 2020 with excited anticipation. It’s something about a rising curtain that instills hope and expectations. My daughter and I recently saw the Winter Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in NYC starring the Rockettes and I leaned over and whispered to Alex how I was giddy even as the curtain lifted. Rightly so—it is the largest stage curtain in existence for the largest theater in the world, is 330 ft X 78 ft, weighs 4 tons, and cost $200,000! The show was merely beginning but for this hayseed it was a big deal!
A couple weeks later I was back home in rural Hacker Valley, WV at a traditional church play and noted the makeshift curtain safety-pinned together to conceal the stage (altar). Directions were written on masking tape and adhered to the edges, and it was held up by shower curtain hooks on a wire. The curtains were pulled back by local youth and actors entertained an audience of 100 friends and family with a well-practiced show filled with laughter and inspiration, less flashy but equal to the “Spectacular” we’d seen in NYC. Sunday morning the curtains were again pulled to the sides for the morning service revealing an Advent wreath and the 1940’s nativity mural great Aunt Anna Balli used in one-room schools where she taught. Near the altar were boxes of complete Christmas dinners, bags of homemade cookies, and toys all to give away. Notably, it didn’t take a $200,000 curtain to reveal the true spirit of Christmas.
As a child I was enthralled with a game-show airing on the only channel we received called Let’s Make a Deal. Monty Hall was the host who chose people from the audience based on their hilarious outlandish costumes. The contestants would be offered something of value and then had to decide if to keep it or trade it for something behind the curtain. I, along with all of America made that decision alongside them…would I keep what was offered or choose what was behind the curtain. Sometimes the “prize” would be a dud, which they called a “Zonk!” At the end of each show, contestants got to choose the prize behind curtains one, two, or three in what was called the “Bid Deal”.
And of course there was the famous curtain scene in the Wizard of Oz where the dog Toto yanks down the curtain, disclosing the fake wizard. Not wanting them to find out who he really is, he yells out in vain “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.
It might sound strange, but the most significant curtain is the one representing sin. God instructed Moses to hang a huge curtain in the temple prohibiting people from entering into the Holy of Holies where He resided, least they die. Some reports say it was 60 ft high and four inches thick but for sure is it was a formidable barrier just like our imperfections (big or little sins) which prevent us from being in the presence of a perfect God. The good news is God’s love made a way! Matthew 27:51 “…the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom…” At the exact time of Jesus’ death, the curtain in the temple was torn in only a way God could do it, from top to bottom, symbolizing we could now have direct access to Him.
My hope is we don’t wait until our final curtain call to get to know the “man” behind this curtain. God wants to reveal Himself to us more fully every day starting now. In Philippians 3:14 Paul says “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” That’s a prize offer of immeasurable value; one we can’t trade for anything better. You could say it’s the best decision we could ever make because it's way more than a "Big Deal".
The tall corn has gone to harvest, but the lessons my sister and I learned in the flat-lands this fall are as fresh as the newly fallen snow. During our annual sister week, Cindy and I experienced a corn maze. We listened indignantly to the sweet cashier who sized us up and then oddly suggested we do the 30 minute kids’ maze as opposed to the adult version. With ample WV farm girl pride we paid for the grown-up tickets, snapped a quick photo of the map, and entered the sea of corn. We wandered around corner after corner admiring textures, colors, and patterns the liner stalks made in perfect rows. Crows dropped out of the blue sky to enjoy a quick snack in the tops of the corn before we turned the bend and interrupted them. Something you need to understand about Midwest farmers is they take their corn mazes seriously, often competing with each other; the best ones getting free advertising and a feature on the local news.
I’m almost positive it was thirst and hunger that caused us to become disoriented, but to our surprise we started recognizing the same cornstalks…or were they? Cindy’s instincts kicked in and she grabbed fallen stalks and began making directional arrows on the ground like they tell you to do on a hiking trail. Each time we left a corn alleyway, she’d make an arrow indicating we’d already tried that path unsuccessfully. Through gaps in the wall of corn we spied another group of wanders made up of two women, a little girl and a baby in a stroller. I told Sis we’d better not stray too far from them as I suspected there would be food in the stroller. We must have looked impressive when they came upon us, what with me holding out my phone map like a compass, and Cindy promptly falling to the ground and constructing an arrow at each turn. We conferred with them briefly and then parted ways but the little girl wanted to go with us instead of her mom and friend, whom she’d lost confidence in many tired steps ago. They repeatedly called her back but Cindy and I often noticed her trailing a few feet behind us, clearly having assessed her situation and decided the best odds of getting out lie with us. After more twists and turns and by Divine intervention, we ended up coming out the way we went in! We lost our pride in that corn maze but we learned a few things too: Two heads are not always better than one, but crazy loves company. Laugh at yourself and allow others to do the same. Confidence does not equate clarity, so seek guidance humbly. And it bears asking, are the people we hang with leading us in the right direction? Leading us out of confusion and into freedom or down a dead end? Kids often know the difference and we should too.
It’s important to know where we are. I love the map at the mall with all the stores listed and a large red “X” stating YOU ARE HERE. While it can offer us a known location, X also can represent the unknown like in a math variable X-2=4. If life were a math problem, I see only one viable solution…a known variable named Christ, who incidentally is sometimes identified by the Greek letter X!
My new year's wish is for anyone who feels confused, like they are going down a dead end path, or have wandered a little in the wrong direction. May your hope be renewed because Christ knows where we are and is trying to lead us to freedom if we just follow Him. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, THIS IS THE WAY, WALK IN IT.” (Isaiah 30:21) Isn’t He a-mazing!!
Janet Cowger- Fliegel