One of the great blessings of being a parent is getting to watch your children experience Christmas. Not just Christmas morning when they jump out of bed and rush to the tree to finally find out what is in those beautifully wrapped presents, but all season long. To see them smile and wave when they pass by Santa in the mall. To witness how big their eyes get when we drive by houses in which every square inch is covered in twinkling lights. Or to experience the excitement on their faces as they gaze at the countdown to Christmas clock and see that it’s getting closer and closer.
However, the greatest blessing of all is to watch them fall in love with the story of the Nativity; Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds, the Angel’s chorus, and of course, baby Jesus. We have read, and reread the nativity story so many times that the pages are falling out of most of our children’s bibles. We have three different nativity sets that my girls can’t wait to get out of the box and play with when we start to bring the Christmas decorations out of the attic. We have recorded multiple plays in which the family acts out the nativity story celebrating the coming child. (Even the dog gets in on the action, filling in for every single animal in the story.) And some of my favorite pictures of all time are of my little girls dressed up like Mary holding a baby doll in their arms and gazing down in awe at their own little “baby Jesus.”
Every year during the Christmas season our family tries to take advantage of multiple Christmas activities that various churches are hosting. We’ve walked through Bethlehem, and driven through Bethlehem, and attended multiple live Nativity scenes. We went to a nativity scene a couple of weeks ago that boasted over thirty live animals. There were chickens and sheep and donkeys, two lamas, and even a camel. There was music playing and hot apple cider to drink. The animals were close enough that they could be petted and there were crafts for the children to make. It was a wonderful experience. In the midst of all of the activities, the noise and the distractions, I looked down and noticed my oldest daughter was staring at the manger. She had seen the camels and petted the sheep and that was fun but her attention was directed at one thing and one thing one, the live manger scene with Joseph and Mary holding baby Jesus. She was locked in and nothing else was going to grab her attention. I leaned down over her shoulder and quietly asked her a question although I already knew the answer, “Sweetie, what are you looking at?” She smiled real big and said, “Daddy, it’s baby Jesus.” The animals and crafts and cider were nice, but she had come to see baby Jesus and once she saw him nothing else mattered.
My daughter reminded me of a very important truth that evening, Christmas is about baby Jesus. It’s not about Christmas trees and Christmas lights and decorating the house. It’s not about presents under the tree or even buying presents to give to other people. It’s not about time off of school or off of work or an extended vacation. It’s not even about getting together with family and enjoying Christmas traditions. All of those things are nice, but they are not what Christmas is about, Christmas is about Jesus. It’s about the fact that 2000 years ago God came to earth. That 2000 years ago in a tiny stable in a small little town the course of world history changed. It’s about how in a tiny city a Savior has been born and that he would be the hope of the world. Christmas is about Jesus.
Too often we as adults lose sight of the most important part of Christmas. We worry about buying the right gifts, and making sure the tree is up, and trying to fight through the Christmas traffic that we forget the joy and hope of the season. That the reason we are celebrating in the first place is because Jesus has been born, the Messiah has come. And sometimes we need to be reminded to see Christmas through the eyes of a child so we can recapture the true meaning of Christmas.
Jesus, thank you for coming to earth to be among us. May we always be in awe of you.