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The Miracle of God in a Manger

We got the children all dressed up in angel wings and kings’ crowns and watched the Christmas story come to life. Blue jeans and ragged tennis shoes poked adorably out from under homemade shepherds’ robes, and their sweet voices sang out in a dimly lit house of worship: “Holy, holy silent night…peace has come to all mankind …”

Sawyer was a wise man, and as the time for his one line approached, I could see him mouthing the words over and over underneath his sequined foam crown: “I bring a gift of myrrh to the king. I bring a gift of myrrh to the king.”

Adelade sang a little duet with a sweet boy in her class. He, the tallest shepherd, she, the third angel on the left. And, when they sang, I feel certain that some real angels somewhere were listening in. In fact, maybe the room was filled with real angels, huddled close to our feather-shedding haloed little girls. Ministering peace to our fidgeting shepherds. Wrapping winged protection around our yawning little Mary and our shy second grade Joseph.

I have no doubt that Jesus smiled knowingly as we all held our breath, waiting to see if our wise men would make it up the steps of the stage without tripping on their oversized royal robes. I wonder if He felt blessed and adored when all the parents in the room thought about how this baby boy wasn’t so different from their tender children who filled the stage. About how He must’ve cried and hurt and giggled and played and got silly and got sad. After all, He was the fullness of God in the form of one helpless, precious, fully human package.

Maybe that’s one reason that the Spirit seems to blow like a sweet, gentle breeze on a Christmas pageant filled with little ones–because seeing our children so close to the dear, true, more-than-a-legend story of Christmas reminds us that the God of the universe chose to become a little child who depended on His teenaged mother to teach Him how to speak. How to share His toys. How to walk and how to say please and thank you and how to hold a fork. It forces us to understand anew just how much He sacrificed, just how humble He really became.

And, when we see a child in tears over an itchy costume, or when the angels lock glittered wings in an attempt to shuffle to their spot on the stage, or when the child wearing the star costume gets stage fright but bravely walks onstage anyway, when the beautiful, complicated, human-ness of each child is highlighted for a few moments in Bethlehem, then we are reminded that Jesus experienced childhood, too. And, He did it because He loves us. And, because He did it, He knows just how it feels to get a little shy. He knows just what it’s like to get made fun of. He understands the ins and outs of being a human being.

I suppose that’s one of the true miracles of the manger. God didn’t just create us and then say, “So, good luck with all that being a human stuff.” Instead, He chose to put on the straightjacket of human flesh, and then He showed us that He knows plenty about human thought, emotion and temptation. Because Jesus became one of us, we never have to worry about whether He understands. He sympathizes with us in our weakness, and He constantly intercedes for us, reminding the Father repeatedly that His blood is sufficient to cover all of our humanness. All of this, from that little baby in the manger.

On Christmas pageant night, baby Jesus was a well-loved dolly wrapped in an old towel. The shepherds’ one sheep was a little girl who is almost halfway through kindergarten. The angels’ halo headbands were slightly crooked.

And on His throne where He rules this universe well, without a hint of panic or worry, I’m convinced that Jesus Christ smiled, watching a ragtag team of small-town children act out the miraculous story of how He humbled Himself to become one of them.

Later as I sat writing, I could hear Sawyer talking in his sleep. “I bring a gift of myrrh to the king,” he may have still been repeating. I wonder what I can bring to the baby in the manger. To the Lord God on His throne. Maybe I can start with these words, written to you — a worship offering. One mother, tearfully remembering the night her children pointed her to the humble Christ child. Baby king. God with us. He is so good.

“ Because Jesus became one of us, we never have to worry about whether He understands. He sympathizes with us in our weakness, and He constantly intercedes for us, reminding the Father repeatedly that His blood is sufficient to cover all of our humanness. All of this, from that little baby in the manger.”

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