THE GIFT OF LOVE – Part Four of An Advent Journey

By Marcy Barthelette

It was now the beginning of week four. The rush of the family holiday celebration was over and the quiet in our home was nearly deafening. I wanted our joyful togetherness to continue on and on. Love became the theme of our time together and culminated in a beautiful celebration. But all earthly things have a beginning and an end, it was time to put aside the modern celebration of Christmas and focus instead upon the wonder of that first Christmas when angels filled the sky with light and proclaimed the news that a very special Child was to be born and that He would offer never-ending love to all mankind.

We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19 CEB

There were two more days until Christmas Eve, two days in which to rest and enjoy the warmth of our home, to share our thoughts regarding the family celebration just concluded and other Christmases long since past. Throughout the years, one of my fondest Christmas possessions has been an olive wood creche that my mother brought me from her visit to Israel long ago. It isn’t an imposing structure, just a simple little stable with crudely carved figures. It’s a humble creche much like the setting where Jesus slept as an infant. It doesn’t find the same spot in our home each year but always lands in a prominent one. It’s nearly indestructible and has provided hours of entertainment and learning for various children and grandchildren. We’ve talked about all the figures and how they contributed to that very first Christmas. We told them about the land where Jesus was born and grew into a man. Some might suggest that a creche shouldn’t be used as a toy, but it was a tangible way for them to learn about Jesus. I remember my daughter telling her daughter not to touch any of the figures and I said not to worry. The creche had seen decades come and go. The stable had been glued back together by a caring Grandpa and the figures had withstood countless little hands. I was certain they would outlive all of us. And so, the creche moves from place to place, but it always tells the sweet story of Jesus and reminds me of my faithful mother.

As the morning of Christmas Eve arrived, I was filled with excitement. Not only would we enjoy the music, the candles, the message of Christmas, but it was my first time back in church since my fall. I was ready to be among friends again. I never fail to find tears in my eyes when the gentle strains of Silent Night fill the candlelit church with love and hope and promise. That night was no different.-At home again on that special night, I have often found myself beside the shining tree, alone after the household had settled in. In those moments when I see that little olive wood creche and the blazing lights covering the tree, the miracle of Christmas becomes so real to me. I can see the host of angels descending on the shepherds and I can feel their fear. I can also share their curiosity and their need to find this special baby. I can imagine Joseph and a very pregnant Mary searching for a place to rest and, perhaps, to deliver her child. I can actually see this city abuzz with travelers coming to town for the census. I can remember being unable to find accommodations in our own travels and experienced the weariness of searching. While I’ve never found myself relying on a stable to provide shelter through the night, I can relate to their feeling of frustration. But when a baby decides to be born, you take care of it. You provide food and clothing and a place to sleep, even if it’s only a feed trough.

I can envision astronomers discovering a bright new light in the sky and wanting to learn about it. And when they discovered that it would guide them to the birthplace of their King, I can understand their need to pack up and travel for many, many miles to see Him. And when they finally arrived and found a young toddler rather than a baby, they presented gifts and worshipped. They had also learned they must travel home by a different route to protect the child from an evil king who wanted to kill him.

It was a time ripe with mystery and intrigue. Those participants of old didn’t have a documented record of historic facts to prove what happened that night. Only a few were even privileged to witness that miraculous event that turned the human story upside down. No longer were we governed by human laws. God came down to earth to deliver a new government, one that was based on love, mercy, and forgiveness.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders;

and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Recently, I walked into my living room on a quiet morning and discovered to my surprise how lifeless our Christmas tree appeared standing there without its lights turned on, and I couldn’t help thinking how lifeless we are without the light of the Holy Spirit shining through us. We are empty, void, a shell of the person God created us to be. Unlike Mary, who quietly accepted her role as the mother of Jesus, we make assumptions or excuses for not trusting His lead and, in so doing, we miss His grace.

We miss out on the reason we were placed on this earth ~ to be so pregnant with heaven’s

  child that he lives through us. To be so full of him that we can say with Paul,

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Max Lucado, In the Manger, Advent Devotional

On this Christmas and every day that follows, may the spirit of love so infuse us with His light that all may see.

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. Mitch Albom, author


Next week….Part Five, The Saving Grace of Redemption


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