Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…

“‘He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1: 10-14 (NIV)

It really began the night before. It was a bit later than we had intended—and later than her Mommy and Daddy would’ve hoped for—but there we were, both Lynda and me, Mimi and Gran, laying in the darkened bedroom on the floor next to our younger Granddaughter Ellie Kate the other night not too long before she finally drifted off to sleep.

At Ellie Kate’s request, her Mimi had created a pallet for her on the floor at the base of the Christmas tree in the bedroom which she and her sister Hannah know is theirs, and right next to the Precious Moments manger scene Ellie had arranged at the base of that tree. While we lay there with her, she alternated between switching the tree lights on and off with the remote, and moving the beloved figures within the manger scene—every now and then picking up the Baby Jesus ever so reverently, holding Him in both hands and looking believingly into His face.

The next morning, while helping to decorate various parts of the house for Christmas with her Mimi, Ellie began, as she always does each year, by unwrapping and setting up all the manger scenes around the house. And then it happened.

While I was busy opening boxes of Christmas decorations in the attic, a wounded cry pierced the distance from the other room breaking my busyness with the pained announcement…

Gran, Gran there is no Baby Jesus, or Mary and Joseph in the box.”

She arrived right behind her words to get me to come and see, and when we arrived back at the scene, she pointed to an opened box with a set of figurines her Mimi had bought containing a camel, a sheep, a shepherd, an angel, and even a Santa Claus and a North Pole. But there was no Baby Jesus. Relieved at what I saw, I smiled and explained to her that this set was simply some figures Mimi bought which she liked, and was not really a manger scene—all true. And so on she went, satisfied, and continued here mission to set up the remaining manger scenes around the house.

And all of that started because Ellie Kate believes that the Baby Jesus belongs in the manger scene—and of course she’s right. In the manger scene under the Christmas tree in her bedroom, as He was the night before as the three of us lay on the floor together waiting for one of us to go to sleep. In the manger scenes she sets up throughout the house. And in the manger scene which occurred over two thousand years ago on a dark night, in a dark world, in a damp manger, and a dirty stable behind a warm inn in the little town of Bethlehem.

In the Gospel which bears his name, John used the term “believe,” or comparable words, ninety-eight times. A Gospel with just twenty-one chapters, yet containing the word “believe” almost one-hundred times. You would think that John’s desire was to get the reader to believe in the unbelievable—of a Virgin birth, of a baby boy, to a young girl. The birth of God’s Son. It was.

How do you explain it? How can you possibly believe it? Maybe that’s why John emphasized “believing” as much as he did. There was simply no way to explain what had occurred so that our finite minds would be able to understand and believe. And there was no way to be able to explain what the coming of Christ, into a dark night, into a dark world would mean to those who were present in those days, and to those throughout the centuries to follow.

Here we are heading out of Thanksgiving and into the Christmas season, and I wonder what we’re expecting to find? I wonder what we’re looking for as the days pass by. I wonder what we believe is waiting up ahead as we fast approach the day of celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? What do we believe as we move past “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” and into sale after sale designed so we can declare a “successful” holiday season?

What do we believe in a world that determines the success of Christmas, not in terms of changed and transformed lives, but in terms of the amount of business done by our merchants locally and elsewhere around the country?

What do we believe in a world that so reorders our priorities that many of us, and many of our families and friends, go through life thinking that each day they will finally find the real meaning to life in their work, or in social settings, or in the accumulation of things, or perhaps worse, in a bottle, or in pills or drugs? And often they find themselves coming to the end of their lives unsatisfied, unfulfilled, sadly beginning to understand after too many wasted years that is was never about that stuff.

But it was always about believing. It was always about believing in a Virgin birth, in a manger, in Bethlehem—and God’s Son, the Baby Jesus.

And this year it can be different.

And it will depend on what you and I believe.

John made it clear way back then—it’s about believing in the birth of God’s Son, on a dark night, in a dark world, in a damp manger, and a dirty stable, in the little town of Bethlehem.

What will you believe in? What will your family and friends believe in?

The answer will make all the difference in your life, their lives and mine—throughout all eternity.

In His Name—Scott

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Copyright 2011. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.