Playfully, a new friend of mine changed her voice as she mimicked the tones of the shepherds, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and even the sheep as she individually held the pieces of our antique manger sitting on our coffee table. We belly laughed as she retold the story through cracked, chipped characters tip tapping the glass top through the hay straw.
Joseph and Mary stood staring at the holy infant keeping their distance with their hands crossed over their chest in a stiff, lifeless stance as Baby Jesus lay still in the most holy, untouchable way safely tucked a few feet away.
“Oh, Look at the Son of God laying there. He is so holy,” said Joseph in her deep, husky man’s voice.
“Yes, Joseph. Isn’t Jesus so perfect?! Don’t touch Him,” Mary sighed in my friend’s best squeaky high voice, “Just look at Him.”
The shepherds and sheep stood at a distance. “Such a wondrous sight. The savior of the world. The angels just told us about it. But we will stand over here so as not to disturb Him.”
The sheep said, “Bahh!” in return. We laughed again.
As the giggles died down, I turned to face my friend and said, “But isn’t this how most people really treat Jesus, and the whole Christmas story? Isn’t this how most religious institutions have portrayed the Messiah? Someone to be seen from a distance – holy, perfect, untouchable. Seen, but not touched.”
She sighed, “Yes, babies are meant to be cuddled, embraced, held close to your heart. They melt the hard things inside us when we do.”
And it’s the same with Jesus. He wants you to hold Him close to your heart, to let Him into the deep places inside of you, to allow His love to melt the hard.
Yet, to do so, we must embrace Him. We must open our hearts to receive His love, trusting Him that His love will be safe.
We can stay at a distance admiring His holiness, and perfectness, making Him untouchable. He won’t force us to come close, but if we refuse to, we will never truly know Him, never truly know His love.
Love is not sterile. It’s not distant. It is so intimate, so close, so vulnerable – kind of like holding a newborn in your arms – close to your breast, against your heart. So, close you hear each others heartbeat. This is the way Jesus is meant to be embraced. One with you. One with Him.
And His love will heal you. It will embrace you back. It will soothe, and melt your heart, giving you a new heart. His love will accept you, and show you who He has created you to be all along, from the beginning of time. His love will set you free.
Will you draw close to Jesus this Christmas?
Take a step closer to the risen Savior. He is not in the manger any more. He is alive. He came to give His life for you, because He loves you.
Love compels us to pick up the baby in the manger, to embrace the baby close to your heart and let Him melt all the hard places away.
He loves you so very much!