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Show and tell

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The people we encounter in everyday life aren't the same kind of captive audience we had for show and tell on Friday mornings in grade school.

Jaymie Stuart

Whether you keep your tree up through Epiphany or Candlemas or take it down shortly after Christmas Day, the Church continues to celebrate the nativity of Christ in these early weeks of the year. I like to think of Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord, and the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple as "show and tell" feasts.

Remember show and tell? While the shy kids dreaded having to get up in front of the whole class and talk, I loved elementary school show and tell with a passion. As a lifelong extrovert, it was hard to imagine anything better than show and tell. So naturally, I started planning my presentation the minute I knew my turn was the next Friday. I still remember taking in a fossil of a shell I'd found in the creek near my grandparents' house. But my very best show and tell presentation was in Miss Payson's second grade. Miss Payson ran a tight ship and was universally considered the strictest teacher at Lowden Elementary. That never bothered or deterred me, though; I liked her.

During those years, a retired dentist who lived around the block used to hand out candy to all the kids who stopped by his house. (Ironically good for business, right?) He told me that he had caught two blue jays and was keeping them in a shoebox. I was thrilled when he asked if I wanted to see them. But when he opened the box lid, he closed it too quickly for me to see the birds inside. After a few warnings about keeping the birds from flying away, the dentist opened the box one last time with a hearty laugh. Written on the bottom of the box were two big blue letter Js. I was disappointed that the dentist didn't have real birds in the box after all, until I realized that what I had just experienced could possibly be the greatest show and tell presentation in history.

I took my own shoebox to school the following Friday. Miss Payson was extremely nervous about the possibility of two blue jays flying around her classroom, and kept warning me to be careful. When I finally sprung the gag, she was relieved, the class groaned, and I felt utterly victorious.

Victorious is how all the angels in heaven must have felt when they appeared to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem with the news that the long-awaited savior had been born. I think it's how the Magi felt when they followed the star to the unlikely house of the newborn king. It's how John the Baptist probably felt when he saw the Holy Spirit descend on his cousin as he waded into the waters of the Jordan and heard the voice of the well-pleased heavenly Father. And I think it's how Simeon and Anna felt when they saw God's promise of salvation appear in an unassuming couple's infant son.

All these biblical figures had something in common, something that we should emulate. They didn't just see God at work in the world; they showed that work to everyone around them and told anyone who would listen about what they had seen. They knew the power of a good show and tell. They also knew that if nobody shows the world what God is doing or is willing to talk about it -- if no one is willing to both show and tell the Good News -- few will ever receive it.

God didn't just save us. He promised to save us for centuries and told us again and again that he would keep that promise. When he did send his son into the world, he announced it with angels, with a star, and confirmed that announcement with prophetic Scripture. He revealed his salvation to local shepherds, distant Magi, Temple prophets, and a wild holy hermit preaching repentance. It seems that God likes show and tell, too.

The people we encounter in everyday life aren't the same kind of captive audience we had for show and tell on Friday mornings in grade school. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is neither a joke nor a fossil. The Incarnate Word is not a spoof like the blue letter Js drawn on the inside of a shoebox. Jesus is the most precious treasure we possess. He is the single most wonderful truth we have to show and tell and share with all the world.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.

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