Our family’s Christmas decorations include trees and lights, candles and wreaths, and several nativity sets scattered throughout the house. This year, I thought it would be fun to have my two-year-old grandson, James, help me set up the manger scenes, partly because he enjoys animals so much. While we worked, he named the animals and the sounds they made, but one thing that surprised me was his fascination with Baby Jesus, not only then, but also during the days leading up to Christmas.
Wherever we were, if a nativity set was displayed within his reach, he would pick up the Baby Jesus figurine and hug it, rock it, and carry it around with him. At my relatives’ houses, he took the Baby Jesus out of their mangers and put Him into his new toy truck which he carried around with him everywhere. Then He would take the Baby Jesus out and share Him with others in the room and hug Him again. We took a photo of Little James at the large nativity set in my dad’s front yard. He held his toy truck in one hand and laid his other hand on Baby Jesus. From his fascination with Baby Jesus this Christmas, the Lord challenged me.
- James was captivated by Baby Jesus wherever he saw Him – not only at my house, but also at other family members’ houses. Am I captivated by Him?
- James held Baby Jesus in his arms and cuddled Him, openly showing love for Him. Do others notice how much I love Jesus?
- James took Baby Jesus with him in his toy truck. While he was playing, Baby Jesus was there with him. Do I live with an awareness that Jesus is with me as I journey through life?
- James shared Baby Jesus with whoever would pay attention to him. Do I share Jesus with others?
This Christmas season I was captivated by His name, “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” It is shocking that the God who created the universe would at any point step into it as a man. Before Jesus came, God spoke to people through prophets, but at the perfect time in history, it is as though He said, “Enough of this way. I am going down there Myself to speak to them, to walk with them, to lay My hands on them personally.” This is indeed good news of great joy for all people! God Himself came down to us! He draws us to Himself and invites us into the most intimate of relationships. He knows every thought and every fault of mine, yet still extends the offer of eternal life and unconditional love. I said yes to Him and He has captured my heart. I am His. To belong to Jesus is to fall in ranks behind Him as our commanding officer, walking in full submission to His will, aligning our wills with His. To belong to Jesus is to become one with Him because His Spirit now dwells within us. What indescribable joy, to be united to the One true God now and always! This is only possible because Jesus came down to us. He lived a sinless life, and died to take away the sin of the world. He accomplished His mission perfectly and offers us true freedom from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. Our part? Accept this most precious gift by faith, deny ourselves as the king of our own destiny, take up our crosses (dying to self continually), and follow Him.
Captivated by Jesus and filled with His presence, it is no surprise that the love He has demonstrated for us is so overwhelmingly vast that it fills us to overflowing so others are loved by Him through us! As we fix our eyes on Him, He changes us from the inside out. He gives us a new heart which is full of His love and it is apparent in the way we love Him and in the way we interact with others. We joyfully yield to Him in obedience. We begin to see our “enemies” as people made in the image of God who need the good news of Jesus. Instead of opposing them, we find ourselves praying blessings for them and seeking to show them how precious they are in God’s sight. His love for us and through us are noticeable.
Being filled with His love reminds us that He is with us everywhere we go, and being with Him creates a hunger in us for more of Him. Thus, the cycle perpetuates: Because I am loved by God, I love Him back and I love others. I witness Him at work in my inner being, transforming me into His likeness as I behold His glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:18), and I recognize His activity in my life’s circumstances. Suffering and pain draw me nearer to Him. As I face situations beyond my own strength, I run to Him, knowing He loves me and is with me. I want more and more of Him because no matter how hard life gets, His presence gives me peace, hope, and joy. Our family is like many others experiencing various hardships: Job losses, miscarriage, estranged family members, deaths, physical and mental illnesses, anxiety, etc. Having Jesus in us means we have His mind which enables us to view our pain with an eternal perspective (see 1 Corinthians 2:16 and 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
One of the amazing benefits of having experienced so many difficult circumstances is that we have many platforms from which we can share Jesus with others. We can relate to others’ pain, validate them, and offer them hope that has not been shaken by any of these things because our hope is in Jesus. For example, have you had a miscarriage? I can tell you how Jesus comforted me through my own. Have you cared for a family member who could not physically care for themselves? I can tell you how Jesus sustained me through many long days and sleepless nights with my mom. Have you lost a job? I can tell you how Jesus provided everything we needed when my husband was out of work for nineteen months. Have you grieved over broken relationships? I can tell you how Jesus restored the ones I broke by my own mistakes. Have you suffered from anxiety or cancer? I can tell you how Jesus used my cancer to set me free from living in a pit of worry. I praise Jesus for every hard thing which has opened a door for me to share Him with others. I anticipate there will be more challenges ahead which will grow my faith, deepen my love for Him, and give me more opportunities to tell of His loving, faithful presence.
In the context of our intimate relationship, Jesus teaches us important lessons in many ways. This Christmas, a two-year-old boy captivated by Baby Jesus in a manger scene inspired me to live my life captivated by the One and Only Lord Jesus Christ, loving Him, trusting that He is always with me, even in the hardest places, and sharing Him with anyone the Lord puts in my path. What adventure awaits as we march in the ranks behind Him into 2022 and ultimately into the fullness of His presence in eternity. While we are here on the earth, the full and abundant life is simply knowing the person of Jesus. He is captivating and He is worthy of our complete devotion.
O Lord, challenge us to let this be our way of life: In awe of You, captivated by You, loving You, desiring to spend more time with You, and sharing You with others!