A long time ago there was a man and a woman who lived in a garden. Not just “a” garden: it was THE Garden. Every fruit was luscious and ripe. Every flower in full bloom. The lion and the lamb were friends. It was perfection in every way. The Master Gardener had set it all in order. He loved the Garden, but even more, He loved the man and woman for whom He made the Garden.

He gave them a task. “Work with me,” He said. “Tend the Garden. Care for all of its creation. Nurture it and see that it increases. Extend the Garden so that many others can taste its fruit and enjoy its beauty.”

At first, this was delightful for the couple. They loved the Master Gardener, and enjoyed tending the Garden. But one day a visitor appeared, uninvited, in the Garden.

“Nice place you have here,” he said to the man and woman. “But you are really sheltered. There’s so much more to the world than just this garden you live in. You really ought to get out into the world more. Here, let me help you.”

They followed this visitor beyond the gates of the Garden, but once they were outside, they found they could not go back. They were locked out of the Garden with its beauty and delight. Worst of all, they no longer could be with the Master Gardener. Who would care for them? Who would help them and feed them? They found they were cold and alone. The man and woman were not made to live outside of the Garden, and had to fashion clothes from whatever they could find so as not to be naked.

They had children, and their children had children. Soon, the Garden was forgotten by all. Yet the troubles of the outside world did not vanish–instead, they multiplied. The people read that there was once a beautiful Garden, and a Master Gardener who cared for His creation. They cried out, “If you are still there and can hear us, please answer!” And He did. He answered in a most peculiar way, by becoming one of the creatures in the world so that He could talk in the language they would understand. He said, “I am opening the gates once again to the Garden. Come! Come, everyone of you. You are all welcome.”

The people jeered Him. How tiny and confining the Garden looked from the outside. “Once,” He said, “something much bigger than your world was born in a tiny stable.” But the people just laughed at this.

He gave the people food from the Garden, saying that much more was theirs for the taking if they would just enter in. Yet after they had eaten, the people once again turned their backs on this man and His “dream” of a Garden.

He tried one more time. “Here,” He said, “I offer you myself as bread to eat and wine to drink. If you will but taste of this, you will live in the Garden forever.” At this, the people pushed Him outside of their city and killed Him as a madman.

But the Gardener Who became a man was too strong for death and broke its power. He once again stood among people, those who wanted with all of their hearts to believe that it was possible to live in the Garden and know the Master Gardener. “I am giving you the keys to Garden,” He said. “Extend the Garden. Invite everyone to enter. There is food and shelter for all. Do not be surprised, however, when you are treated as I was treated. Still, it is your job to go forth and invite all to live in the Garden I have prepared.”

The Garden Gate is open once again. Come. Dine. Rejoice in the beauty. Walk with the Master Gardener and let Him teach you His ways. But don’t forget that we are to reach out and draw others in with us. This is the work He has given us to do.