Oprah shined the national spotlight on the State Fair of Texas this year. I have been visiting the State Fair since I was a kid, wandering the sprawling grounds that circle the Cotton Bowl, birth place of the Cowboys, site of the Texas OU shootout and the Grambling game. There is something about the State Fair. Maybe it’s Big Tex, standing at the entrance where he has stood for generations, welcoming all comers with his Texas drawl. Maybe it’s Fletcher’s corn dogs smothered in mustard and ketchup, or cotton candy, sugar sprinkled waffles, roasted turkey legs and the deep fried “whatever” that reflects the Texas motto, “If you can fry it, you can eat it!”
Maybe it’s the midway with barkers promising prizes for a ring toss, a plastic duck plucked from the pond, a water balloon filled with water guns or the bell rung by a powerful blow with the sledge hammer. It could be the rides rotating with screaming and squealing kids. Or maybe it’s the pig races, the animal barns with blue ribbons or the tastiest jams and jellies. It could be the bird show, hawks launched from the ferris wheel swooping low over our head to the crowd’s applause. It could be the auto show where the Mustang was introduced in 1964, where today’s cars are on display with gleaming chrome and glistening paint.
Most of all, I think, it is the people, people who come together to laugh and celebrate family, heritage and culture. I like to see parents pushing babies in strollers, children dancing with excitement, grey haired men and women smiling at private memories, and lovers lounging on the grass beside the reflection pool.
God loves people, and he must like laughter. If the laughter of our children thrills us, how much more does our laughter thrill Him. God likes to see people coming together to enjoy one another. That may be why Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast, providing new wine when the wine ran out. It may be the reason His teaching is filled with references to banquet feasts and parties, like the fatted calf killed and cooked to celebrate the prodigal’s return. Heaven is described as a great banquet feast, a mansion with many rooms, a place where all the peoples, cultures and languages of the world gather in celebration and joy.
The State Fair, of course, isn’t heaven. It certainly isn’t perfect. But Heaven is. Our moments of celebration and enjoyment are dim glimpses of what God has prepared in Heaven. The Bible says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Rev. 21:3-4). This, of course, is why Jesus came, so that we might experience glimpses of heaven here, and eternal life with Him in Heaven when we die.