Up in the sky there was a light as powerful as a star.
   "How do they do that?" I asked.
  "Satellite, on a very restricted orbit."

Jesus World

by  John W. Ridder

   I had a strange dream the other night.   In it, I received an invitation to visit Israel, all expenses paid.  It would not be the usual trip to the religious sites.   It would be to one place only, a fabulous place, new and ready to open.  Created by the same wonderful folks who gave you Disneyland, Disney World and Island of Adventure!    

Well, it was for free so I went.

   A knowledgeable guide took me to the new Jesus World, on a more or less flat plateau near Jerusalem.   "In this one place" he bubbled "you will encounter ALL of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.  Think of it! in this one place, no climbing up and down stony hillsides.bus rides,  or sweating in the Dead Sea country."

  We went first to a one-room house.  There was Mary, being visited by a huge, but very handsome Man angel, equipped with gorgeous six-foot long wings.  She was human but the angel looked a little spooky as you could see through him.
  "How do they do that?" I asked.
The guide smiled.   "Hologram".    "Oh".

  We moved on to a quaint little Turkish style inn with an enclosure behind it that was surrounded by barns and out buildings.    "Oh," I  said " this must be the Inn in Bethlehem."    "Right on," the guide said, " complete in every detail.  It has a world class restaurant for visitors and a completely stocked bar."

  "Wait a minute" I said " where do Joseph and Mary fit in here?"
  "We'll visit the stable a little later, but first we go to the shepherds in the field watching their sheep."    There they were, on a realistic hillside.  Real people, with crooks and everything.  Real sheep, too.   

Up in the sky there was a light as powerful as a star.
   "How do they do that?" I asked.
  "Satellite, on a very restricted orbit."     

Wow, and angels filling the sky. 

"More holograms, I asked?"       "Indeed."

  Out of nowhere voices began to sing in many languages  "Glory to God in the highest and Peace on Earth to men of Goodwill."   (Luke 2:14)
  "Not real angels' voices" I remarked disdainfully
  "No, computer actuated, carefully concealed speakers, 64 tracks of sound! Isn't the effect stunning?"

  "Now, we move on around back Of the Inn.."  There were the barns and stables.   And there were burros, cows, sheep  and camels and mangers filled with hay; the whole bit!   But, mirabile dictu!  [Marvelous to relate!]  No smells.   "Now, I have been in barns and stables before and there are always smells!  What's going on?
  "How can you have animals in a barn and no smells"  I asked innocently.
  "Oh, we don't want to offend our visitors.  These are all mechanical animals.  They are not real, but aren't they realistically stunning?"
  "Nice touch.  A virtual world!  No smells, no balking burros."
  "And the people over there, are they machines, too?"
  "Oh, no, they are real people-- Stanislavsky method actors.  They think they are the real people!"    There were shepherds and three orientally attired gentlemen, very impressive, obviously the Wise Men.

  "And the baby in the manger, is he real or machine?"
  "Well, really, sir.  You can see!  That is a real baby.  He gurgles, he cries, he sleeps.  He does everything a baby does.  That's baby Jesus."
  "And Mary?"
  "Oh, she's live, too. That is one of our biggest headaches.   Babies grow and mothers want to take their babies home after awhile.  We are always hunting around for virgins with new born babies for the manger."

  " Oh, yes, and Joseph?"
  "Pretty good actor, isn't he? 

Looks just like the real Joseph."
  "And how did the real Joseph look?"
  "Like him."

   I was becoming skeptical.   "This is a theme park, so there must be a gift shop.  Where is the Gift Shop?"
   "The finest.  Follow me.  

On the way, I asked him some questions.

       "Will this be all?

I mean, will there be new sections added depicting the life and ministry of Jesus, his baptism, the coming of the Holy Spirit to anoint him, the journeys and the debates with the scribes and Pharisees, the Sadducees   -- oh, and above all.  

What about the  Way of the Cross?  

What about the ---"

  "You have too many questions!"  he interrupted.  

"We only want to comfort our visitors.  We want them to have a happy experience of Jesus.  It is not our intent to disturb them with guilt issues."

  "You can be sure that if there is a walk to the Cross, it will be bloodless, and there will be no disturbing cross with a thirsty, writhing, bleeding, dying Jesus."

  "No resurrection, either, I suppose?"   "Oh, we'll figure out a way to show that.  It will be spectacular and a first for show biz."
  "More holograms?" I mused.

  The guide handed me a post-mortem sheet to fill out with my comments on the new Theme Park.   I don't know what I started to write, but I was seized with a sudden desire to eat falafel and  to drink some strong Palestinian coffee,     so I  headed out of the park and toward  the nearest Palestinian fast food shop.

  The guide was chasing after me. "Wait, wait.!  You haven't turned in your comment Sheet."
  I woke with a start, cold chills running up and down my back.  "Do you suppose?    --- Nah, it couldn't happen, or could it?"

  Actors who think they are the real people,

a stand-in El Nino!  

A barn that doesn't smell like a barn? 

A star that is only a satellite in a tight orbit, 

hologram angels?

an Inn that serves gourmet food?" 

Gift shops!

  I thought about all of the little Sunday School kids over the years, dressed like shepherds and wise men and angels, and all the little girls with dolls in wooden boxes with straw.  And a teenage boy playing Gabriel with arms outstretched seemingly forever!     Isn't that a better
remembrance of this day?

   Why did God come into the world in this way?  Why did he take on our nature for a while?.

 The Viceroy in Offenbach's comic opera " La Perichole" loved to dress as an ordinary man to wander among the people to ask them what they thought of the Viceroy.    The people knew he was coming and since they recognized him, they always gave him the right answer.

  When I was younger, I thought that is why God came into the world; so that he could get a real feel for the human condition by being a part of it.
     People in those times were a lot like the people now.    They had religious thoughts.  They acknowledged God, sort of.  But their thoughts were pretty much of themselves and their struggles day by day.  God was on the edge of their lives, not in the center.   If they thought about him at all, it was as a fierce, condemning, judging Deity, far off.

  It was the task of Jesus to change that.   His mission was to teach them that God cares about them, that He can make a difference in their lives, that his desire is to be close to them, not on the fringes but in the center of their lives.    Reconciliation now and a blissful return to his presence after this life.

  Jesus' birth was in the ordinary way under extraordinary circumstances. What we refer to as the virgin birth should properly be called "virginal conception".
It is his conception that is different.  How this could come about is known only to God and the only information we have about it is from the Holy Spirit conveyed to Mary through the angel Gabriel.    The details are beyond human understanding.

      Even though the human record of treatment of one another is very spotty and tarnished, God cares for his own creation.    From within the human species, Jesus revealed Good News from God.     The Good News is that there is redemption available to all, even the worst of sinners.

  No theme park can ever convey the mystery and the wonder of the real birth of the Son of God.   Not even a trip to the holy places in Israel can do it either.

The mystery, the wonder, the inspiration and the reality are all experienced within.

  Thank God that this is true.  


John W. Ridder 12/23/97

all rights reserved
The Rev John W. Ridder is an Episcopal priest, living in semi-retirement with his wife in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Postscript 2/3/01    

Change the city from Jerusalem to Orlando, Florida!
"The Holy Land Experience" is the newest theme park.  Billed as "a living biblical museum" . It opened February 5, 2001  (The cost: $16 million, built in a 15-acre park.)

The New York Times reports: The goal is to transport visitors "7,000 miles away and more than 3000 years back.  It even has fake camel hoof prints embedded in sidewalks, a 7-Eleven store and gas station just outside the Arabian-themed Oasis Palms Café where you can buy Goliath burgers."   No falafel available, however.

No theme park can ever convey the mystery and the wonder of the real birth of the Son of God.   Not even a trip to the holy places in Israel can do it either.

The mystery, the wonder, the inspiration and the reality are all experienced within.

John W. Ridder  2/6/01

Why did God come into the world in this way?  Why did he take on our nature for a while?.


John W. Ridder all rights reserved by the author. 

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