Nothing is sweeter, more endearing, than witnessing your child wrap his head around the true meaning of Christmas. Because we believe that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” we have always been conscientious about finding opportunities during Christmastime to bring our focus back to Him. And let me just say, it’s a very fine balance. Santa and gifts and sparkling lights and candy will lure a child in before you can blink. Lighting Advent candles, reading the Christmas story from the Bible, and doing something nice for others can seem a little less captivating.
So for five years now, we have faithfully (dutifully) exposed our son to the real Light of the holidays. This year we are starting to see the fruits of that labor. Now, I’m not saying our kid is an angel who does not ask incessantly for more toys. Trust me, his Christmas list is a mile long and he monitors every present under the tree for size and shape like it’s his job. But I’ve also seen a shift in his little heart this year. He anxiously places the ornament on his Advent tree each day and is devoted to reading the coinciding story in his Bible at bedtime every night. He lights up at the idea of doing something helpful for another person. And is going to break the bank (aka mama’s wallet) because he insists on feeding a handful of coins into E-V-E-R-Y Salvation Army bucket. But what makes my heart so happy about his transformation this year is watching him put the puzzle pieces together when it comes to Jesus (“Gee-jus” if you ask him) and His part in the season. And this shift couldn’t have been clearer than when I took him to see a live Nativity in town a couple weeks ago.
At this particular live nativity, you walk from one reenactment to another that carries you through Jesus’ life, from His miraculous birth to His horrifying death.
*Record scratch*…what’s that you say? Why in the world would they include the hard stories from the Bible into their Christmas program? Isn’t that kind of sucking the joy out of the season?
We often think about Christmas being the celebration of Jesus’ birth. However, we have to ask ourselves, “why?” is His birth so important? And that is where the real beauty of the Story plays out. Looking beyond the incredible phenomenon of His conception…His life and death have a very poignant purpose for us. Because we are all sinners…basically horrible in most every way at making good decisions, incapable of holding back judgement of others, and selfish to our very core, etc. etc. etc….Jesus bridges the gap between us and God. Jesus’ death fulfilled God’s plan to bring us, His children, back to Him in a way that we can’t manage on our own. So when we celebrate Jesus’ birthday it is impossible not to also dwell on His death and the purpose it served.
So the night my son and I walked through this live Nativity I found myself watching my kid’s face as he took it all in. He stared in awe at the angel, Gabriel, who came to Mary to tell her she would be the mother of THE KING. He was beyond excited to see the manger with Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus…not to mention the camels! I’m pretty sure he high-fived one of the wisemen. He gazed in wonder as Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem and was star struck when Jesus walked out to the crowd and put his hand on his head. And in a moment of true “Ben-ness”, he hollered out to Jesus during the scene from the Last Supper, “by the way, that’s just a tortilla!” Seeing it all from his perspective was heart-stirring. Several times I could feel myself tear up at his sweet innocence and obvious love for Jesus.
We then rounded the corner to the scenes where Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Roman soldiers, tried before Pontius Pilate and crucified. This was our second year to experience this live Nativity. Based on last year’s experience where he was beyond intrigued by the brutality of the soldiers and Jesus’ savage death, I honestly expected my son would want to linger a while to watch. This year proved to be a very different story. Instead of intently observing he turned his face to the ground and said quietly, “let’s keep going.” I softly whispered, “it’s hard to watch someone you love be hurt.” He just nodded.
Now, my five year old son, on most days, is your typical boy. Full of energy, guns-a-blazin’, headstrong, self-indulgent and loud. But moments like these, where I witness him recognizing that his tie to Jesus is relational and not just ritual, is heartwarming.
We slowed down again when we got to the empty tomb and he listened closely to Jesus proclaiming himself to the disciples, “Peace be with you. Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet — it’s really me.” (Luke 24:36-38 MSG)
As we countdown the final days before Christmas, let us take a moment to marvel at the miracle of Jesus’ life AND His death.
“When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth — even those long ago dead and buried — will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”
Philippians 2: 7-11 The Message