nope, not Santa....
...a baby in a manger.
Go back in time to that stable...before the time of holiday shopping lists, yankee swaps and the politics and traditions of Christmas...what would we hear? what would we see? what would we feel?
try to picture it...
What would we smell?
I smell a familiar smell...much like a zoo or a farm...the mixed smells of livestock, manure and hay...hard to decipher which smell is which...but either way, it's pretty pungent. the ground is cold and dirty...much different from the sterile labor delivery rooms i've seen! i see a man...he looks tired...obvious the journey to Bethlehem has been long...he seems relieved but also a little worried as he wipes the sweat off his wife's forehead...he supports her back as another contraction pulls her forward. his wife looks young...couldn't be more than 16 years old...she looks ordinary, but responsible...like she knows she's doing something important...the sky is dark...there are stars as any other night, but there is one star that's shining much brighter than the rest...it's hard to describe, but it's probably the brightest star that ever was in history...it's strange how it hovers over this place...like it's shouting, "hey, pay attention to what's happening in this stable...it's a miracle!! don't miss it!"....even the animals seem to know what's happening...they just lay and wait.
the time has come and she knows it's time...she gives one last excruciating push and their son is born. The silence invites the first cries of a newborn...Overwhelmed with joy she takes the little baby to her chest. He looks into His mother's face....a face He already knew well, but is seeing for the first time through the eyes of an infant. i can't help but stare at this baby's face...there's something so familiar about Him...like, I know Him...and then the man began saying, "we shall name Him Emmanuel...this is the name the angels gave Him before He was born...
It means 'God With Us'."
ah, yes...it's true! i do know Him!! He is Jesus!
Joseph cleans the baby off...because just like every other baby, this baby was covered in the regular disgusting textures of birth that every baby has...everything about this event seems so ordinary, but it was anything but that! he hands him back to Mary who begins to feed Him...how marvelous it must have been to know He was the Creator, her Saviour, the King...and she's nourishing Him in a way that only she could!! i can't imagine the things she must have pondered in her heart! the very special treasured memories that she stored away...the joy she felt as she bonded with Him in those first moments...and then the pain she felt as she remembered His destiny...I can't help but think about it myself...I know the story of His sacrifice...His story is the most tragic I've ever heard...the story of how He romanced me and ultimately laid down His life so that I could have life...why would He come in this way? welcomed by ordinary people...welcomed by stinky animals...to be wrapped in dirty rags and to sleep in a borrowed feeding trough...i know He came to die...to fulfill the plan His Father had for my own redemption...but it's hard to imagine now as i look at His face.
i wonder if Mary kissed His feet and thought, "hmm...some day, these feet will walk on water"....i wonder if it was hard for Joseph to teach Him about carpentry, knowing that those tools would eventually be used against Him as He was nailed to the cross...i wonder if Mary heard Jesus' first words and shuddered at the thought of His words being mocked someday...i wonder if Jesus listened to other kids complain about their nose or height or weight and was tempted to say, "hey! i made you that way and you're perfect!"...i wonder if Mary worried about Jesus as he hung around with prostitutes and lepers...i wonder if Joseph silently cried as He nailed pieces of wood together...
i can't help but wonder as i look into His face.
And now I see His face again...He's much older now...a man. He grimaces as His hands and feet are nailed to the cross...He's hung up high on a hill like a banner for all to see...he's being mocked and ridiculed even still. it's the darkest day...there is no star hovering over this place...but something about this still screams, "hey! pay attention to what's happening on this hill!! it's a miracle! don't miss it!!"
i wonder if mary saw his blood-stained hands and remembered training him to walk while holding them...i wonder if she heard the sound of the hammer clinking into the nails and fondly remembered her husband teaching him the art of carpentry...i wonder if the men that hung Him up on the tree had any idea the part they were playing in my own personal story.
everything about this death seems so regular...ordinary...the blood, the sweat, the tears, the agony...but it was anything but that!! why would He choose to leave this way? rejected by the men and women He came to save...to be denied by some of His closest friends...to be buried in a borrowed tomb.
He takes His final breath and utters His final words, "it is finished"....and just like His first words, history begins. it's in that moment that i can't help but wonder if it hurt when He took my sins...couldn't there have been another way?? He could have called ten thousand angels to take Him off that cross...but He didn't... and He did it for me. i look into His face and i see the Son of God...Emmanuel...the Word that became flesh...born of a virgin teenager...conceived by the Holy Spirit...living for the sole purpose of dying...the Healer of lepers...the Sanctifier of filthy woman...the Redeemer of lost souls...the Giver of life to the spiritually dead...the untouchable God, made touchable...after seeing this, i can't help but believe...this...this is MY miracle...it started in Bethlehem...continued on Calvary...and is finished in me. He's the Restorer of MY soul...the Light unto MY path, the Healer of MY heart, the Author of my past, my present and my future, the Redeemer of my soul...the Finisher of my faith, the Correcter of MY wrongs...the Preserver of MY life...the Fulfillment of MY joy...the Reason i have HOPE...the Lifter of MY spirits...the One who serenades me as the Lover of MY soul...He is MY Salvation...and all because He became "God With Us"....all because He came...i Believe.