This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:12.
Two nights before Christmas, a number of years ago, I wanted my children to experience Christmas in a different way. I took them to the home of one of my patients. This sweet young woman with a child of ten was near the end of her life, suffering from a cancer that I could not control. She was paralyzed from the waste down and had lost almost all of her vision. Her son and husband welcomed us at the door and we moved to the living room where her hospital bed was set up near the Christmas tree. My patient was all smiles when she greeted us and joked about us having to position ourselves within her one small spot of vision so that she could see us. My daughter sang O Holy Night; we held hands and prayed. Her Christmas message to me and my children was summed up in these words, “I love you, Dr. ______. Don’t worry; God’s going to take care of me.”
A question arises as we approach the manger this Christmas, “What would we ask of our King?” To paraphrase Dr. Stephen Olford, “What we see in Jesus is what we can claim from Jesus.” Do we seek what the Christ child offers? Dr. Olford suggests that we will get from Jesus what we see in Jesus.
When we approach the Child in the manger, there are three things we obviously don’t see in Him. We don’t see material blessings. We don’t see respect from the world. We don’t see worldly security.
So much of what we do see as we approach the manger was reflected in my patient’s life for my children on that Christmas years ago. In the Christ child we see:
1. God’s presence: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel----which means ‘God with us.’” Matt 1:23. We are not left alone in this world. As my patient declared, “God’s going to take care of me.”
2. God’s plan: with this child comes a new plan for all of history and for all of us. We are not here to live for ourselves. We are not born to die. Is the plan He offers the plan we have chosen for our lives?
3. God’s peace: though he had no reason in the world to expect peace and joy for himself, the baby in the manger brings peace and joy for the entire world, even to young, paralyzed mothers who can hardly see their own children by the Christmas tree.
4. God’s perspective: most of the world on that first Christmas could only see the usual night sky, but the shepherds saw the angels. God’s perspective is the truth of life. This world is not limited to the physical; this world is not temporary. In truth we live in a world where the spiritual realm far exceeds the physical and the eternal laughs at our fear that this life is all there is. Ask my patient when you see her someday.
5. God’s power: always directed toward God’s purpose of love and redemption, and sometimes aligned with our own imperfect desires.
6. God’s pardon: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” Jn 1:29. And mine as well.
”What we see in Jesus is what we can claim from Jesus.”
What is it this year that we can claim from Jesus as we approach his manger? What will we ask from Him on each of our ordinary days? Will our prayers match the reality of the manger? Will they match its glory?
Thank you for coming as my Savior, born in truth so long ago. Let me seek to match my desires to Your mission each day this coming year. Amen.