Thursday, December 29, 2016

[The Beginning of] the Beginning of the Story

The whole "baby in the manger" thing has me thinking. What in the world are we supposed to do with an infant whose birth was heralded by angels, visited by sheep herders, lauded by wise travelers? It makes for a great story, except there's no closure at the end of our Christmas holiday. That Baby, no matter how special and holy, can't do anything. It's great that He came, but...

My dad used to travel for business, and he'd sometimes bring special gifts home. When he went to Alaska, he returned with photos and explanations of a large retaining wall for which his company had supplied the interlocking pieces. Oh, and jade necklaces for my mom and me. One of his early trips to the east side of the state, he witnessed tumbleweeds blowing across the highway. I was thrilled to take a real tumbleweed to school for show-and-tell! (Side note: I had to wrap it in newspaper so my classmates wouldn't guess what it was. Ha!) Looking back, I enjoyed the stories as much as the presents.
my completed moccasins were something like this

And then, on a jaunt to Arizona, he picked up a moccasin kit so I could stitch up my own slippers. No story, but something representative of the place. I loved the idea of having my own moccasins. But the kit, by itself, was only a beginning. It was what came after, the process of putting them together, that would make them useful. Only after that would I be able to wear them.

The baby in the manger is kind of like the moccasin kit. In order to really get something out of it -- Jesus, that is -- you have to involve yourself in a process. There's the first part of His story, understanding that His birth and His very existence is amazing. As an adult, He did things and told stories and taught lessons that should have our attention. But then... then there was the whole "end of story" part when He was killed -- but He could have gotten out of it. What? Yes, Jesus could have opted out, but He let them put Him to death as a religious criminal. And then, after He was proven to be dead, He was resurrected and reunited with His followers before returning to the right hand of God the Father. The point of all of this was to pay the penalties for all of our misdeeds, so that we could also be with Him forever.

So, celebrating the miraculous birth of the Baby is like opening that moccasin kit. It's exciting just to see this beginning, but there's much more to come if you carry it out to the end. Read and follow the instructions, as it were, to receive the real joy and fulfillment.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

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