I went to a wedding about 2 weeks ago. As I was leaving, I received a text from my husband to find some tabletop sized mangers that he could use on the altar during his sermon series for advent. Well, I love a good shopping/hunting trip, plus you top it off with it being Christmas items… I was in heaven! The wedding was near Trussville, so there were many places for me to look. And now that I live in a much smaller town, I was excited to be near so many stores!
I began at what I naturally assumed would have a plethora of mangers and nativity sets… good ol’ Hobby Lobby. But no such luck. I barely found one small nativity scene in there!
Next, I went to the other craft/décor store down the street – Michael’s. I did not find even one baby Jesus there. It made my heart sad.
Onward to Lifeway Christian store. Surely they would have one. They should have the market on nativity sets and the sweet baby Jesus! But alas, nothing. The manager at Lifeway was very nice though and advised me to go to the top side of the shopping center to the At Home home decor superstore. He said they had like 10 giant rows full of Christmas décor, and that if any store had some, it would be them. But alas, they did not.
I love movies, especially when there is a good soundtrack to it. The music playing adds a level of drama and emotions to the scenes as you watch the story play itself out. And honestly, I like to think there is a soundtrack playing for my life. On Sunday mornings, there are worship songs being played as I get ready for church. As I’m walking into the office to start work, I hear Dolly Parton singing “9 to 5”. As I psyche myself up to go to my exercise class, I hear TobyMac music. So it was absolutely natural for me to hear the song, “Where are You Christmas?” as I was on my great journey to find a manger.
I was walking up and down all those aisles in the At Home store, and I could just hear the music swell as I searched and searched for the baby Jesus. Like I was in a real-life Christmas movie! But instead of the lyrics, “Where are You Christmas?”, I was hearing Faith Hill singing “Where are You Jesus?” I could feel myself walking very dramatically, searching diligently for any sight of a nativity or creche.
I found about everything BUT a manger. Naturally, I found many trees, Santa Claus figures, and snowmen. But there were so many other things, and especially in light of what I was looking for, seemed like pure NONSENSE. Do we really need an entire section of nautical decorations for our tree, making sure to include mermaids and driftwood boats?!? Or an entire decoration display centered around peacock feathers?!? Such nonsense!!
But then there were the very pretty reindeer decorations with a snowy type of look. I could feel myself being drawn into their ‘merry and bright’ frosty blues and silvers, wanting to see how much they cost. The “Where are You Christmas?” music was fading as the temptation grew. Then I felt God shake my shoulders and say, “Remember why you came here! Snap out of it!” It broke the trance those magical reindeers had put me under!!
I did finally find about 10 nativity sets on a small display table. But none of them were exactly what I was looking for.
As I’m heading out, I walk by the big blow up Christmas decorations, and lo and behold, I find a giant blow up nativity, which did indeed make me laugh out loud.
As one last ditch effort, I ran into Home Depot. They often have Christmas décor, especially yard items in the front of the store. But of course, they were very picked over, and a manger was not to be found.
I headed back home, feeling defeated. The secular world had beaten me. I listened to Christmas music as I was driving, thinking the whole time about how I could hardly find a nativity set anywhere and how, to me, that is the very meaning of Christmas… the very reason for Christmas. If not for the baby, this precious manger King, coming from heaven to earth, then there would be no Christmas. How could it be that I could hardly find a trinket that represented such a holy moment that this whole holiday hinged on?
I guess since I was deep in thought, I didn’t notice that an extremely dense fog was developing the further west I went. When I turned left onto Highway 43, I could barely see 10 yards in front of me. Then one of the last turns I made that takes me to my house, the fog was so thick, I couldn’t see hardly a yard in front of me! I drove about 10 miles an hour on that road. There are no painted lines, so I used the right edge of the grass to help guide me home. It was craziness! I had never driven in fog like that. I almost called Scott and asked him to come get me, but I thought, “That’s ridiculous! It’s just fog! It’s just a cloud!” So I continued on, searching hard for the side of the road, looking for a clear view so I could make my way home.
I finally made it home, and once there, I let the dog out. As I held her leash, I looked out over the yard, again pondering over the thickness of the fog that has blanketed Fayette. Then all the sudden, I looked up. Not sure why. Maybe the Holy Spirit quickened me to do so. But when I did, I was in awe. The sky was perfectly clear. And because we now live out in the country, there is hardly any light pollution. That means when the sky is clear, it is an absolute beautiful display of stars and planets.
It took my breath away, just seeing such a clear sky in contrast to the obstructed view on earth due to the fog. Then I felt the Lord say, “Here I am. You’ve been looking all night for something. For mangers, for nativity sets, and even your way home. But Here I am. All you had to do was look up.”
Those words hit me so hard. Christmas gets very muddled up with all the ‘extra’, just like my way home got muddled up with the fog. Just like all the Christmas decorations that swallowed up all the nativity sets. The performances and parties, lights and lists, decorations and displays, gifts and garland, Santas and Scrooges… and before you know it, you can’t even find TRUE Christmas – heaven actually coming down to earth. Not that any of those other glittery things are bad, but they all are meaningless without the One who is the greatest Gift of all.
This looking up at the stars reminded me of a very familiar story of some other stargazers found in Matthew 2.
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
These wisemen had their eyes up to the heavens, which led them straight to the place where the baby Jesus was. This King of the Jews. Exactly who they were searching for. They found the most perfect gift of all when they had their eyes focused above. And then their response was joyful worship, offering gifts fit for a king.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a very popular scripture verse. It’s about God’s plans for us that give us a hope and a future. It is often used at graduations. But personally, I love verse 13 and the first part of 14. It says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. It’s simple. Seek and you will find. It is a promise from the One who is the ultimate Promise-Keeper. He wants to be found by you. Unlike games like hide-n-seek and sardines, HE WANTS TO BE FOUND. The truth is, He has already found you. He’s just waiting for you to look up.
So this Christmas, keep your eyes to the sky like the wisemen of old, above the clutter of Christmas that tries to cloud our view. Before you know it, you will indeed find the manger. And once you find it, rejoice with exceeding great joy, fall on your knees in worship, and offer yourself to the One who has offered all of Himself to you.
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