When I visited Israel in June, I was disappointed to find that most of the sites I really wanted to see were covered up by a church. Where was the cave-stable where Jesus supposedly was born? Somewhere under the floor of the Church of the Nativity—only a bit of the rock visible through an ornate peep-hole in the floor. Then there was the Church of the Multiplication, built around a mound of rock where Jesus probably laid the loaves and fishes before multiplying them. There was a Church of the Sepulchre, a Chapel of the Ascension . . . you get the picture.
I got a grip on my irritation by considering that the millions of pilgrims and tourists flocking these holy places would probably have worn them down by now, if they had not been protected by buildings.
Then my fellow tour group members, Agnes and Cienne, gave me a new perspective. These two sisters (both in their 80’s, I understand) were Catholic women, originally from Haiti. Whenever we walked by a church, our two Haitian/American friends went AWOL. They could be found inside, in sincere adoration. Guess the ornate woodwork and stained glass weren’t meant to hide, but to celebrate, the glory Jesus had brought to that ordinary place.
But I still wish I could see the rough cave where Jesus was born and a manger (feed-trough) like the one that became his cradle. Come to think of it, I did once–kind of. It happened when my son was born right before Christmas. The Nativity meant so much to me that year as I marveled that my newborn babe would someday be . . . what? Something amazing, no doubt.
I read and re-read the Christmas story in Luke and Matthew. Each time, I captured some of the awe and hope of that birth that was even more momentous than the one I was experiencing. That December the usual presents and decorations and holiday meals brought me special satisfaction because my heart knew what we were celebrating.
Every year, millions of us look to the glitter and excitement of the season to bring us joy. It’s like trying to be as happy as everyone else at a victory celebration . . . even though we didn’t watched the game.
This Christmas, how about peeling back the layers of holiday traditions and getting a heart-full of the Babe in the manger? Let the radiance of heaven-come-to-earth shine in your heart. That’s what the glitter of the season points to.
G I V E A W A Y
Please share your experiences and thoughts about a meaningful Christmas. If you do that today, you will be entered in a drawing for a chance to receive an autographed copy of Friend of Angels. The winner will be announced TOMORROW (December 20). If you win, you may receive it after Christmas–to extend your celebration by reading about what probably happened after Jesus’ birth. (If you prefer to buy one now to give as a gift, please follow this link.)