Christian living, Family, God encounters, Seasonal

Embrace the Baby

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!

Merry Christmas!

Christian living, Family, Seasonal, Uncategorized

Socks for Jesus

A repost of my favorite Christmas story

By: Carolyn Charismata Weaver

“Blue light special on aisle nine.  Children’s shoes for ten dollars,” boomed the man’s voice over the speaker.  Shoppers turned their buggies eagerly towards the ominous blue light spinning around and around illuminating the narrow aisle.

Sarah, my three year-old, and I continued our Christmas shopping for her daddy and baby sister ignoring the people pushing by. 

Passing the Christmas trees decked in colored lights, we slowed down, as she declared, “Pretty Mama!”  Then she clapped her hands to “Frosty, the Snowman”, as I pressed the red nose of the famous character for the second time.  The toy’s hips swung back and forth in rhythm.  Commercial Christmas in all its glory shone before us.

“Need to get moving,” I muttered to myself. 

Turning my attention back to the duty at hand, I asked, “What do you want to get daddy for Christmas?”

With an inquisitive expression, Sarah tilted her head to the side.  “But mommy, it’s baby Jesus’s birthday.  What we get Jesus for Christmas?”

“Hmm.  You are right,” I said, “What do you want to get Jesus for His birthday?”

She paused for a moment.  “Socks,” she said, “Socks, Mama.” 

Puzzled, I said, “Why socks?”

“To keep His feet warm.  They must be cold in the stable.” 

“Of course.  You are right,” I said.  “Off to find warm socks then.” 

With all other gifts forgotten, we strolled to the sock aisle.  “How about these, sweetheart?”  I held up some multi-colored socks for her to see, but she had already spotted the ones she wanted. 

Pointing, she said, “No, Mama.  Those over there.” I brought the brightly colored, fuzzy socks closer for her to see, as she was firmly strapped in the buggy. 

“Yes, those.” 

Handing them to her, she held them tightly as we finished our shopping.

Later that evening, she helped me carefully wrap the precious gift in a small box with bright green paper and a red bow on top.  “To Jesus.  Love, Sarah” the tag read.

“Hon.  What do we do now?”  I turned to my husband for advice, after we tucked Sarah into bed. “If we have a birthday party for Jesus, and He doesn’t show up, then what?” 

Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head, “I know.” 

“What?” my husband said.

“We will find one of those live nativities and let her leave her present there.”

Surfing the internet, we frantically searched to find one in our area.  Sure enough, God provided:7:00 p.m., that coming Saturday night. 

A couple of days later, I bundled the girls up in their matching red, wool coats their grandmother had purchased for them, pulled hats over their ears, and placed gloves on their fingers.  After buckling them into their car seats and handing Sarah the precious treasure, we were off to wish baby Jesus a very Happy Birthday.

Her sister snuggled close to my chest in the baby carrier, while Sarah held tightly to her daddy’s hand with one and proudly to the gift with the other. My sister and five year-old nephew met us there to join the celebration.

Abruptly, Roman soldiers stopped us at the theatrical entrance to Bethlehem,  “Why have you come to the city tonight? “ they grunted. 

Innocently, Sarah peered up in their harsh faces, “To bring baby Jesus a present,” but daddy quickly added, as he cleared his throat, “To pay our taxes, of course.” 

The guards snickered to themselves, as they said, “Welcome to Bethlehem then.”

Shuffling by quickly, we paid our pretend taxes at the next booth, and then made our way through the city in search of the baby. 

Past booth after booth we walked, each selling spices, hand-woven cloths, whittled wooden toys, or other treasures. The smells of fresh bread dipped in olive oil, sweet dates, and sheep filled the air.  Daddy took the gift from Sarah and tucked it under his arm, as Sarah and her cousin explored the wonderful treats.

“Look, Mama.  The shepherds!”  Sarah exclaimed. 

Sure enough the shepherds stood in the field watching over their sheep by night.  Suddenly, music began to play, while behind the shepherds, spotlights lit up the sky.  A man dressed in a white robe with golden, make-shift angel wings attached to his back appeared, declaring the good news that Emmanuel was born that night. Sarah jumped up and down clapping her hands with joy, while her cousin chased a stray sheep.

“But where is baby Jesus?”  Sarah asked, turning to me.

“I don’t know, sweetie.  But maybe we should try to find the innkeeper.  He would know,” I said.

Behind us at the gate, the wise men filed in with camel in tow.  “Maybe we should follow them to find where baby Jesus is,” daddy wisely added.

“There’s no room in the inn,” a man dressed in a cape and sash said, as he halted us from following. 

“But I have a present for baby Jesus,” Sarah said, as she cautiously pushed it forward for the man to see. 

“Hmm,” the man replied, “You have heard about the baby, who is said to be the new king.  We must keep this quiet from the Romans for they would seek to kill a King of the Jews.”  He bent down almost whispering in Sarah’s ear.  “Come then, little one.  Come see Baby Jesus.”  Sarah’s eyes lit up as he allowed us to pass through his door.  “Go out through the back, to the stables.”

The wise men were just kneeling, presenting their gifts to a young mother cradling a baby in her arms.  Joseph stood watchfully to the side. Illuminating the perfect scene, a shaft of light beamed into the heavens behind them.

“Oh, Mama.  We found Him,” Sarah whispered. 

My eyes brimmed with tears.  “Go ahead, Sarah. Go to baby Jesus, and give Him the birthday present.” 

Timidly, she approached, gently placing the gift at Mary’s feet next to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

At that moment, her cousin overcome with the desire to also bring a gift, began to sing, “Happy birthday, Jesus.  I’m so glad it’s Christmas.  All the tinsel and lights, and the presents are nice, but the real gift is you.”  He spread his arms wide open for dramatic effect. In turn, we all joined in.

Mary’s eyes filled with tears, as Joseph smiled. “Thank you, precious ones,” she said, “Thank you for these beautiful gifts.”

Sarah ran back to our arms.  “Do you think He’ll like it?”

“Oh Sarah, Jesus will love it, for He loves you,” I said.  We snuggled together, as her daddy leaned over kissing her on the forehead. 

“Time to go,” daddy said, but as we solemnly walked away, I glanced back to etch the image in my memory. 

For years, we made the same trek to find Baby Jesus, but as the children got older, new traditions replaced the old. But I will never forget that first holy night when heaven kissed earth, and the song of joy broke through our darkness.

Christian living, Seasonal, Uncategorized

Mistletoe Kisses

“I’ll be back in a bit, hon,” my new husband shouted back over his shoulder, as he hurried out the door of our small apartment.  

“I wonder what’s he’s up too?”  I pondered.

An hour passed, and my mind began to race wondering what trouble he might be getting into.  We had been married less than a year.  Our small Charlie Brown Christmas tree leaned in the corner with the few ornaments we had inherited from our childhood dangling. 

An antique ornament of Mary and Joseph in a faded yellow dome took center stage on the front of our tree.  

My life was completely different now.  

I never really thought I’d ever get married.  Didn’t think anyone would ever want me.  

Yet, somehow I’d always dreamed of having a healthy, happy family one day.  An unrealistic dream, I thought – something so unlike what I had had growing up.  

During the first few months of our young marriage I had found myself pacing the floor at night unable to sleep.  Trapped.  Trapped by a piece of paper.  A covenant I had agreed to be with this one man I had dated less than a year for life, but as the months had passed, I had begun to settle down a bit.

My eyes fell on the simple manager scene under the tree.  An uncertain young husband, a newly wed wife holding onto to a promise, and a baby – a vulnerable, innocent lamb.  They had a dream too – a dream that this child would one day save the world.  

The scuffling of feet at our door returned my attention to the thought of “Where is Paul?”  Someone bumped the door, then knocked.  “He has a key,” I thought, but I got up to see who it was.  
But then his muffled voice confirmed.  “Open the door, hon.”  

The crispy air nipped my cheeks as I swung open the door to a man with a grin beaming from ear to ear.  In his arms, he held tightly the largest bundle of mistletoe I’d ever seen.  My fears melted into joyful shock.

“What in the world?” I stammered.
He pushed his way through the front door with it, and placed it on the table, which it now covered.  “Merry Christmas!”

He might as well have brought home a buck he had shot for Christmas dinner.  I laughed.  

“What are we going to do with all this mistletoe?”  

“What do you think?”  He smirked and then blushed.  

“We have to share some of the wealth here, don’t you think?”  We had other friends who were young married, all of which, whose names suddenly popped in my head. 

I looked back at my now green covered table.  “How did you manage all this?”

He smiled again, this time a proud, Tarzan-like smile.   I chuckled again.  “Well, I had a little help.”  He paused.  “You know the property at church is pretty large with lots of trees.  I thought I had seen some mistletoe in them, and well, I thought it would be fun to have some hanging up for Christmas.”  
Laughing to himself, he said, “I got over there and Dan, the grounds guy was out with his backhoe.”  

“Oh no.  What did you do?”

“Well, there were no low hanging boughs, so he offered to lift me up in the bucket to grab some of the high hanging pieces.”  His chest almost burst with pride.

“Thank you, sweetheart.”  He got his kiss before the mistletoe ever got hung up.

That happened 24 years ago now.   We have had a lot of ups and downs, been through a lot of very difficult things together, and a lot of beautiful times.  This still holds as one of my favorite Christmas memories though for many reasons.  

Outside of all the kisses that year, it reminds me of the simple thoughtfulness of blessing someone you love with the more than enough. just because.  

The gift was extravagant – it was way more than we could ever use.  Sometimes, because we hear the story of Jesus’s birth over and over, we lose the extravagance of it all – the awe-struck wonder of God sending His own son to be a man, a man of sorrows, acquainted with our pain, our grief to save us from our sins.  It wasn’t a last minute ditch effort on God’s part either.  It was methodically planned before the creation of time itself.  

God blessed us with the more than enough, with the greatest possible gift with His son, Jesus.  
I had been tempted to reject my husband’s gift that day, because it just felt too much, like i knew I didn’t deserve to be loved that way.  

God’s love is the same way, given freely, not because we’ve done anything to deserve or earn it.  It’s like He’s standing at the door with His arms full of unconditional love – His love looks like a baby who came to save us.  

Will you receive His gift today?  You won’t regret it.  And then you can share that gift with others.  There is always more than enough.