I have a very simple olive wood nativity set that I put out every year for Christmas. I bought this set in Israel many years ago. I love its simplicity and the memories it brings to me of my times spent in Israel.
This year, as I was decorating, I asked Aaron if he would like to place the nativity scene on top of the cabinet where I always display it. He agreed, and so I left him to it as I continued putting out other decorations.
Later, as I walked by, I saw what Aaron had done and I had to smile. You see, he placed the shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph, and the animals in a tight group around baby Jesus in the manger.
I usually have them spread apart, like this.
My first instinct was to rearrange the pieces in the way I always have them. But I stopped myself. First, I didn’t want to hurt Aaron’s feelings – making him think that he had not done the job correctly.
But looking at this little scene, with every person and animal huddled close around baby Jesus, has made my thoughts go to the significance it portrays.
The whole depth of God’s love for us is demonstrated in that humble manger scene. To think that He planned the way of our salvation through the gift of His only Son is astounding.
Jesus, God Himself, drew near to us as he was born in a filthy animal stable and placed in a dirty feeding trough. He endured the difficult life of a human during a very hard time in history. Israel was ruled by brutal Romans. Jesus was not welcomed in that world and was eventually crucified. His death went far beyond politics, though. He lived and died to make the way for us to know God…to come to God through His sacrifice for us…to bear our sin so that we could be sinless in God’s eyes.
Jesus grieved over Israel’s refusal to believe that He was the Messiah. His heart broke as He looked over the city of Jerusalem and said that He would have gathered them near as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
And how He wants us to draw near to Him in that same way!
James said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” (James 4:8)
He has said that if we seek Him, we will find Him.
Draw near to Him for salvation.
Draw near to Him in every upheaval of this life.
Cancer. COVID. Divorce. Prodigals. Danger. Tornadoes. Finances. Termination. Caregiving. Death.
Just add your situation to the list and then purposely draw near to Jesus.
Satan wants to distract us and defeat us by making us look at the impossible and the hopeless.
But Jesus wants us to know Him and to see that with God all things are possible. With Him, we have hope both here and now, and for eternity.
And to be able to say with the Psalmist, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.” (Psalm 73:28)