I had the indescribable joy of holding my precious new granddaughter recently. Sage was nearly two months old before I met her for the first time. For some reason, her parents have taken up residence in North Carolina so I don’t get to see them as often as I would like. I don’t blame them because I can remember back when I was their age and living next to mom and dad was not at the top of my list of goals. That is something more for us old folks to desire than for a young family beginning to make their own way in this world.
The two month delay did not dampen my enthusiasm when I was finally able to get my hands on the precious new life. Sage and I quickly became good friends. In fact, she was comfortable enough that she fell asleep on my lap after a couple of laps around the house. During her stay in town, the kids got together and took pictures of all three of our grandchildren and gave Sharon and me a wonderful Christmas gift of photos. As I write these words I am looking at a beautifully framed photo of Kayla, Noah, and Sage.
It seems like only twelve months rather than twelve years ago that Noah came along. I also remember the first time I held him in the hospital. He fit neatly into one arm but now I suspect he could pick me up if needed. Kayla is a beautiful young woman of fifteen. She only came into our lives a year ago but every time I am with her she plows deeper into my heart.
Most of you reading these words have children and/or grandchildren so you know exactly what I am saying. We can never have too many. The human heart is an amazing thing. It can expand to love more and more people without ever having to love anyone any less. What began as my heart filled with love for Sharon and then three boys expanded to include three girls and now three grandkids. I love them all as much as possible but I do not love any of them any less. Love does not have to be shared, if we are willing to give it away, it simply expands. You know how it works, when Sage came along it was not necessary to take love away from Noah and Kayla.
A new baby is especially easy to love. How can you help yourself? Even if you simply see a baby only once, it seems that love wells up for that brief visit. Have you ever tried to hold a new baby without smiling and making silly noises? It can’t be done.
Everything about a baby shouts love. Perhaps it is the silly expressions or the subtle noises or the flailing arms and legs. It could be the softness of their skin or the freshness of their smell (in spite of an occasional dirty diaper). It might be the helplessness; this child will not survive without my help.
When God chose to demonstrate love – He sent a baby. There could be no better way. It seemed like such a good plan. The shepherds came from the fields to see the baby and bask in His love. The Magi came from miles away to worship at His feet. Even thousands of years later the birth of the baby speaks to us in such a powerful way that we still reenact the birth event with manger scenes on our lawns and in our churches. Our children perform Christmas pageants to remind us of the baby, the demonstration of God’s love.
When we think of Christmas we imagine a newborn, sleeping quietly in a makeshift crib. However, think about that baby two months later, the age of my new granddaughter. Can you see the Son of God flailing his arms and legs, stretching his muscles, trying to control his movements, totally dependent on the adults in His life? Or, perhaps two year later, when He is running in and out of the house making friends and always exploring as two-year-olds do. The Christmas story speaks of none of these things except for one quick snippet of information when He was twelve.
Instead, we are transported to thirty years later and a grown man shows up in the wilderness to be baptized by John. If you think you saw a demonstration of God’s love in the birth of a baby, you ain’t seen nothin yet! The love of God is revealed over and over for the next three years as this man walked among us, teaching and demonstrating what life is all about. This is the like the manufacturer giving us a personal demonstration of the owner’s manual.
If you think that is all there is to God’s love, let me say it again, you still ain’t seen nothin yet! “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). When that precious newborn, after growing up in a very hard and often cruel world, complete with all the pain from the scars of beating and thorns and the emotional sorrow of rejection by those He loved and the spiritual loss of feeling abandoned by God Himself, hung on a cross to die for our sins, that is the true demonstration of God’s love.
Christmas is certainly about the birth of a baby, but it is much more than that. It is primarily about God’s love for us. It took thirty-three years to completely unwrap that first Christmas gift. My prayer this Christmas is that we will take the time to appreciate and better understand that first precious gift. As good as it appeared lying in a manger, the gift was even greater when hanging on a cross.