I sat in Friendly’s, across from my five-year old Sunday afternoon, and while she spooned frigid spoonful after spoonful of vanilla ice cream with sprinkles into her numbing mouth, I told her the story. Because, the funny thing is, she doesn’t know it. When you’re a parent of multiple children, I think you easily forget that the last, often coined “the baby” far beyond her diaper years, is often overlooked when it comes to details. I joke about how she’s raised by a house of four moms. Because her older sisters really dive in and help her with just about everything. And that really helps this tired mommy out.
But there are some things your parent is supposed to give you, in my humble opinion. And that’s history. So I started out by telling her about a girl not too much older than her big sister Hannah, named Mary. And an angel who visited her. And a young man named Joseph. Who, instead of rejecting Mary, the girl he was engaged to, loved her. Unconditionally. About a star, that shone so bright, two significant groups of folks followed it day and night until they found the gift that lie under it. A barn. Where Mary and Joseph had to sleep when the hotel in Bethlehem was fully booked.
Then I told her about a baby. Who was born in the middle of moo’s and baaa’s. A baby whose first bed was a box filled with hay for the animals to eat out of. A place that was not a crib. And as I formed the words, “Can you believe that the first place Jesus laid his head down was not in a comfortable crib with clean sheets and a warm fuzzy blanket,” I lost it. The tears began to flow. Right there in the middle of Friendly’s. Not sure what got into me, but my heart started breaking like I was hearing the story for the first time.
“Sarah. How can it be that God would bring Jesus into this world and let him sleep in an animal feeding box? For me. For you.” And then the words that I could barely speak, “And do you know why he was born, Sarah?”
Head shakes no. Because she doesn’t know the connection between Christmas and Easter. The bookends of the greatest story ever told. The greatest story ever.
“To die.” And I’m reaching for napkins. “This baby was born to die. For me. And for you.”
Yeah, not your run’a the mill afternoon conversation over ice cream sundaes. But something told me it was the right time. And it all stemmed from the morning when Sarah played a Star in the annual Christmas pageant at church. She waved that five-pointed cut out like it was a flag in the Olympics. And as the story goes, it was a starry night, the night Jesus was born.
“Sarah, do you know why your role was so important?”
Head shook no.
And so, while the ice cream tasted sweet, sweeter still was this moment I shared the story of Christmas with my baby girl. Because, that little Drummer Boy [will never know for sure if that was an historical account] was onto something. Children don’t need to know or understand everything about Christmas and history to comprehend a birthday. And how when you don’t have money for that perfect gift, there’s still something to give. Something as precious [maybe more] than gold or silver or even incense and myrrh.
So as you finish up your last second shopping, cut and snip, tape and stuff, take a moment to think about what you might bring the baby. Who was a King. It’s his birthday, after all. And we might not all be wise men [or women,] but I’ll bet there’s something you’re supposed to give him this year. Your talents? Your time? Your hurt? Or a bad habit? Or maybe even your life? What is it?
And the best part, he’s accepting gifts all year round. And the irony of it all, is that He’s the best giver of gifts ever. In fact. He, the baby, Jesus, is the best gift. Ever.
Merry Christmas All! And an almost Happy New Year, too!