A Frosty Face, A Birthday Bash, and A Cuddle in the Creche
Glenn Pease tells the story of a fairly typical last minute Christmas shopper. With little shopping time left, this bargain hunter was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three year old son was no longer clutched in hers. In a panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flatly against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother‚Äôs near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: "Look Mommy! It‚Äôs Jesus - baby Jesus in the hay.‚Äù With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, "We don‚Äôt have time for that!"
What are we making time for this Advent season as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas? You see, how we spend our time reveals our priorities. And our priorities reveal our values. Are you like the mother in this story who did not have time to ‚Äúponder these things in her heart.‚Äù Or, are you like the little boy ‚Äì nose smudging the frosty window trying to get a clearer view of little baby Jesus?
As parents and grandparents, our children are taking cues from us on the worth and meaning of Advent and Christmas. They see the way we are spending our time. They can easily discern our values as they watch us operate in this busy season of preparation leading to the celebration of Jesus‚Äô birthday. The way many adults preparate for Christmas, you would think it was their children or grandchildren‚Äôs birthday celebration. Very early on, children learn to focus on themselves - ‚Äúwhat they are getting.‚Äù Often the first question children ask each other is, ‚Äúwhat did you get this year?‚Äù Where do they learn that Christmas is all about them? They learn it from us‚Ä¶because, sadly, we may have also been taught that it is all about us and we are passing that misguided notion right down the line.
Aaron Burgess shares that a family celebrated Christmas every year with a birthday party for Jesus. An extra chair of honor at the table became the family‚Äôs reminder of Jesus‚Äô Presence. A cake with candles, along with the singing of "Happy Birthday" expressed the family‚Äôs joy in Jesus‚Äô closeness. One year on Christmas afternoon a visitor to the home asked the five-year-old girl, "Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?" After a moment‚Äôs hesitation, she answered, "No, but then it‚Äôs not my birthday!" What an extraordinary answer.
Are we doing enough to place Jesus at the heart of our celebration? It‚Äôs about time we did that.
Finally, a poignant illustration by Jim Kane. He writes that in 1994 two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on Biblical principles) in the public schools. They were also invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage.
It was nearing Christmas and for the orphans it was their first time to hear the traditional Christmas story. The two Americans told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, and how the couple went to a stable, where Jesus was born and placed in the manger.
Throughout the story, the children, according to one of the Americans, ‚Äúsat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.‚Äù
As a follow-up activity to the story, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was also given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins which the children tore into strips. The paper was then carefully laid in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel from a thrown away nightgown were used for the baby‚Äôs blanket. From pieces of tan felt a doll-like baby was made.
As they made their way around the room to observe the children this is what one of the Americans noted, ‚ÄúAll went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy‚Äôs manger, I was startled to see, not one but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.‚Äù The observer goes on to note that Misha very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger. ‚ÄúThen Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, ‚ÄúAnd when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no momma and I have no papa, so I don‚Äôt have any place. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn‚Äôt because I didn‚Äôt have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‚ÄúIf I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?‚Äù And Jesus told me, ‚ÄúIf you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me. So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him ‚Äì for always.‚Äù As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him ‚Äì FOR ALWAYS!‚Äù
Our children and grandchildren must hear this story from us. They must see themselves in this story and like little Misha realize that Jesus will never leave them or forsake them‚Ä¶FOR ALWAYS.
How will you spend your time this Advent and Christmas? Will you join the crowds at the mall who are much more interested in getting a good deal on gifts than sharing the best gift ever given? The day after thanksgiving, black Friday, a store clerk who was attempting to open the doors of the store for business, lost his life as rabid shoppers trampled him to death. What does this say about our culture's values at Christmas? I pray we will be consumed with letting our light shine before men ‚Äì that they will see Jesus. We may need a fresh frosty face, an appropriately directed birthday bash, and a warm cuddle in the creche. Merry Christmas everyone!