Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Allow me to take you back to our Live Nativity this past Saturday night. So there I was… trying to faithfully embrace my role in this year’s production as “wise man #3.” I’ll save my sulky gripe-fest about being unceremoniously demoted from “wise man #2” for another day. 😉 The mission was simple; and I was ready to accept it. All I had to do was approach the manger, bow reverently, and offer my gift of frankincense. I was also privileged to lead Al the alpaca (clever name, must’ve taken awhile to come up with that one) along with me. No lines to speak. Nothing to memorize. Just walk, bow, and kneel. Easy enough. Much like my fellow wise guys, things were going smoothly. We arrived on the humble scene, gently nodded to Mary & Joseph, gave our gifts, and treaded back to the right of the manger. For the final two hymns, all we had to do was kneel before the creche and gaze adoringly at the Christ Child. A touching, living picture to replicate the awe and worship of the wisemen after their first visit with Jesus. That’s when Al and I locked eyes. It was as if this large, fluffy, don’t-you-dare-call-me-a-llama creature was peering into my soul just trying to get me to break my “wisemen” persona and smile. He would stoop down, eat some grass or hay from the ground, and then come up to chew—with his mouth open and tongue flapping, might I add! He did this repeatedly, all while staring at me from about 8 inches of my face. It worked. I cracked. I broke character. I couldn’t keep focused. My eyes frequently shifted from our baby Jesus to the stinky-breathed herbivore in front of me. Cautiously wondering what was running through his mind. And as if making occasional eyes at this four-legged barn animal wasn’t bad enough, during the last stanza of ‘Joy to the Word’ my new friend sneezed on me. Yup, that’s right. My new pal, Al, sneezed all over the left side of my cheek. My contemplative gaze into the manger was done. I stood up and retreated back behind the manger scene, trying not to laugh while wiping my face clean.
Can we find a teachable moment in this? You bet we can! The Lord provides a lesson in everything. It is so easy to get distracted this time of year, is it not? It is so easy to take our eyes off the gift of the Christ child as we become distracted by all sorts of other things. Of course, as faithful followers, we know better. We try to keep Jesus as the main thing in all of our Christmas preparations. Front and center in our manger scenes, front and center in our homes. We are wise enough to avoid all the commercialized hype and materialistic traps that surge especially during this time of year. We want to keep Christ in our Christmases. We know that He is the reason for the season. But eventually, something causes us to crack. Something will distract us. Our unpredictable lives unfold and we flinch. What is it for you this year? I hope it’s not an animal staring you in the face. Is it gifts that have been delayed in the mail? A task list that grows while the days to complete them gets smaller? A work schedule that forces you to miss out on too many family festivities? Added stress from caring for sick or aging family members? A passed loved one that will not be with you this Christmas?
Yes indeed… there are so many diversions and so many disturbances. We are now less than three weeks away from Christmas. Thankfully, we haven’t missed it yet. It is not too late for us to bow down and worship the One who is born King of kings and Lord of lords. When the “alpaca moments” of this world rob your gaze away from Jesus, stop and look back to the creche. Rejoin the cast of shepherds and the wisemen as they worship. Turn on the Christmas tunes and join the choirs of angels as they sing from above. Pivot away from the distractions and go back to the divine gift of a Savior. After all, the good news that we shared with our community this past Saturday night is our good news as well: ‘The best Christmas present won’t be found at the mall, or on Amazon, or under a Christmas tree. The most precious Christmas gift is Jesus and what He took on our human flesh to do, to someday die on a tree to save us from sin, death, Satan, and the grave. Remember, He was born so that man and woman no more may die. What a precious Christmas gift to us. What a precious Christmas gift we can give to others. God loves you. What Jesus has done, He has finished it for you and for all. Yes, Jesus loves you.’
The way in a manger is a babe fast asleep;
He's never a stranger to wise men who seek.
The light and the hope for all of mankind;
He's the way in the manger, and He's easy to find. (“The Way in a Manger” by Paul Brandt)
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Pastor Steve Vera