“Read it again, Mommy. Pleeeease read it again,” begged Mackenzie, my then seven-year-old. Her three-year-old brother, Mitchell, echoed her plea. “Yes, Mommy, especially the part about the little boy and his donkey!” Their freshly washed faces and still-wet hair glowed in the light of the Christmas tree as they sat with pajamas on next to me on the couch. As a nightly December ritual, they chose a book from our “Baby Jesus Basket” full of storybooks about the birth of Christ.
Their favorite this particular year was The Small One by Alex Walsh, a fictitious story of a too-small donkey who has to be sold in order to bring in one piece of silver. His young master takes him to town, but no one wants such a small creature except for the village tanner.
The donkey is ready to give up his life when a kind man offers to buy him to help carry his pregnant wife to Bethlehem. So the small donkey is given the great task of carrying the mother of Jesus to the stable where He will be born.
I have always loved reading Christmas stories to my children, and each year they receive a new nativity book from my mother. That year, however, my eyes were opened to part of the story that I had been unintentionally leaving out.
After tottering over to the basket to put away the book we’d just finished, Mitchell asked me to read him a story from the Bible about the other Jesus.
‘What other Jesus?” I asked.
“Not baby Jesus,” he replied. “Big Jesus who died on the cross.”
Now realizing that he hadn’t connected the two in his mind, I sat and explained that the baby Jesus grew up to be the same Jesus that died on the cross to save us from our sins. Somehow he’d figured baby Jesus was a fairy tale and big Jesus was for real.
I realized we adults can do much the same thing. Oh, we know there is just one Jesus and that He is for real, but we are content to leave Him harmlessly in the manger.
Somehow a sweet, adorable little baby is acceptable to the world around us. A Lord who calls for men and women to choose either to obey Him or to suffer the consequences is not. But we can’t have one part of the story without the other.
We must never forget that the hand-hewn manger one day became an old rugged cross.
We can’t just peer lovingly into the manger without looking obediently to the cross. Baby Jesus deserves our adoration as much as the Lord Jesus deserves our allegiance.
The next year I did not neglect the entire story of the one true Jesus when reading nativity books to our children. Starting with Luke chapter 2 from God’s perfect Word before I chose a picture book from our special basket, we read of God’s wonderful plan of sending Jesus to earth.
We worked on memorizing more of the Scripture in order to put on our annual nativity play for Grandma and Grandpa complete with baby Spencer starring as the Christ child.
Still today we’re inventing ways to keep the story going until Easter in order to tie it all together. One woman told me how her family saves their Christmas tree and cuts off all of the branches to leave one large trunk. They then cut off the top about one-third of the way down and use twine to tie the two pieces together in the shape of a cross. They then place the cross in their house where the Christmas tree had been as a visual reminder of the entire life of Christ.
From the cradle to the cross . . . O come, let us adore Him!
Karen Ehman, KarenEhman.com