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He might look like a garden variety Christmas shepherd, but there's a lot more to this young man than a robe and a shepherd's staff. That's a seven-year-old evangelist you're looking at.

Ezra McCard was on the Live Nativity float our church, Fort Valley Methodist, entered in our town's Christmas Parade last Saturday, December 9. We had Mary and Joseph, a couple of fantabulous young angels, and Ezra and his cousin, Kayden, were oustanding shepherds. I donned a robe and joined the shepherd section for the ride down one of Fort Valley's main thoroughfares.

Folks lined the sidewalks to wave, shout "Merry Christmas," and scoop up candy tossed from the floats. When not scarfing down packs of Smarties, I waved back and dispensed less desirable treats - suckers, peppermints, and assorted hard candy. It was small town Americana at its finest.

Our goal was to make the candy last the entire trip so that those at the end of the parade would get treats just like those at the beginning of the route. That was our goal.

We failed. Miserably. As in, we were pretty much out by the time we'd reached Taco Bell, which isn't even the halfway point. I quit hammering the Smarties and we started flinging candy one piece at a time, rather than by the handful.

It had been well established by this point that Ezra and Kayden, the shepherd cousins, are local celebrities. They seemed to know literally everyone on the sidewalks. They called out names and folks yelled back at them, snapping their pictures and even videoing them. I felt like I was riding along with the likes of Taylor Swift or Jayden Daniels, the newest winner of the Heisman Trophy. One of them will likely one day be Fort Valley's mayor. I'm betting on it.

We finally let fly with the final piece of candy. I sat on a hay bale and waved, though I'm not sure anyone much noticed me. They were too busy yakking it up with my two celebrity pals. We had nothing to give but good tidings.

After a couple of minutes, I realized that Ezra wasn't just waving and yelling "Hi!" His good tidings had changed.

"JESUS LOVES YOU!!" he called to those along the sidewalks. "JESUS LOVES YOU!!" he repeated to a clump of onlookers. Each group received the same happy salutation, the same hopeful assurance, the same grace filled promise - "JESUS LOVES YOU!"

Man, oh man, does the world need to hear that wonderful Good News this Christmas! And if a seven-year-old boy in Fort Valley, Georgia is bubbling over to share that message of love, then what about you and me?

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