I recall hearing a story years ago, the impact which still touches me today. It is a story of a teacher who was teaching children in Russia the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth. She was teaching them about Joseph and Mary going up to Bethlehem and how Mary was expecting a baby, but not just any baby. She was going to bear God’s son, and she would call his name Jesus.
The teacher explained that when they came to Bethlehem, there was no place for them to stay, so they ended up staying in a barn with the animals. That is where Jesus was born. She told how Mary placed the baby Jesus in a hay manger and wrapped him in strips of cloth to keep him warm.
After telling the story, she instructed the children how to use the paper, scissors and crayons she had brought with her to make a stable and a manger for Jesus. The children all participated, cutting the paper and making their versions of a stable, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus in a hay manger. As the teacher walked along encouraging the children, she stopped at one particular boy, noticing his manger scene was a little different than the others. His manger had not one, but two babies in the manger.
The teacher asked the little boy, “Didn’t you hear that in the story there was only one baby in the manger, not two. Why did you make two babies?”
The little boy replied, “Baby Jesus told me he was lonely and wished he had someone to keep him warm. So, I made another baby to be with Him.” He held up the second cut-out paper baby and said, “This is me. I will keep him warm and He won’t have to be alone.”
That story really touched me because the little boy was an orphan and the simplicity of the story of Jesus coming to Earth as a baby, to be our savior touched that little boy so much because he understood it a personal way – that Jesus came for him and he was no longer alone. Jesus was there for him and would be with him.
The message of Christmas is that God loves us so much he sent his son, Jesus to be born to us, to show us how much God loves us. The Bible teaches that God became flesh to come to where we are and show his love, mercy and grace that we might know him and follow him.
There are a lot of lonely people in our world today. We might have a thousand friends on social media, but very few or maybe no one who really knows us intimately, yet loves us and accepts us as we are. We long for intimate relationships, friendships who will stick with us through thick and thin. The Scripture teaches us that Jesus came to be that kind of friend for us.
The whole event of Jesus born in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary, is all about God coming to us to be with us; to be, as the angels announced to the shepherds, “a Savior is born to you. He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
Christmas can be a hard time for many people because they struggle with losses in their life, with loneliness, with deep sadness, maybe even confusion. Know this! God loves you so much that he sent his son, Jesus, to this earth 2,000 years ago that he might know us, love us, forgive us, be ever with us and “never leave us nor forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5-6). You are not alone this Christmas! Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
• Dan Wiese is a the pastor of Church of the Nazarene. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.