I have always loved Nativity scenes. I collect them and some I leave out all year long. It is a reminder to me about the greatest gift that I have ever received, Jesus. One of my favorite nativity scenes is the one that we got while we were in Israel. We actually bought it in Bethlehem and it is made out of wood from an olive tree. The olive tree is one of the trees growing in the Garden of Gethsemane, the very place where Jesus prayed before being crucified on the cross.
When I was a little girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old, our family had a nativity scene and it sat on our big box TV. Kids of today don’t realize how BIG televisions used to be! My mother used to go by the nativity scene and find that the Baby Jesus was missing! You see, it was in a manger but it wasn’t glued down. It was a little tiny figurine that was just in the manger. At first, she couldn’t figure out how it was missing and then back in the manger later. Then one day, she discovered what was happening. Jesus was with me at a tea party. I had a blanket down in my room with all my dishes and teacups and the baby Jesus, from the manger, was there with me. It turns out that I really loved that little baby from the nativity scene and wanted him to enjoy a tea party with me. One day she even captured me in a photo with her old Kodak camera as I was taking Jesus out of the manger.
I wonder how many of us really make Jesus a part of our Christmas. Do we invite Him to our parties and celebrations? Do we want Him with us everywhere we go or are we just leaving Him in the manger to look at and make it appear that He is a part of our lives. This Christmas season, make an effort to include Jesus in all that you do. Because God gave the most indescribable gift ever, He gave us salvation. He gave us the tiny baby who grew to teach, perform miracles and pay the ultimate price for us, death on a cross so that we may live eternally with Him.
This Christmas is a very different Christmas for us. I know that we are missing Mike and that many of you are missing him too. It has been hard to face and so easy to just wish that the holidays are over. Anyone who has suffered loss of a loved one or sudden hardship may be tempted to fall into a dark place. However, I choose to still celebrate Christmas. Mike loved Christmas and loved finding new ways to preach and teach the story that we know so well. Christmas isn’t just for us to celebrate relationships with our loved ones. It began as a way for us to have a relationship with God. If we forget that part of it and only focus on our loss, then we lose sight of the best present of all. Death and hardships remind us that we live in a fallen world that is suffering. Jesus came to end the suffering and provide eternal life to us. We celebrate this gift at Christmas. You may open many gifts from friends and family but be sure to take the best present of all, Jesus. He came to us in a manger but He wasn’t meant to stay in that manger! He was meant to become a part of your tea party, your family and your life.
2016 will be very different but we know that God is with us and has a plan for us.