When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, â€œWho do people say that the Son of Man is?â€
â€œWell,â€ they replied, â€œsome say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.â€
Then he asked them, â€œBut who do you say I am?â€ Â Â Â Matthew 16:13-14 (NLT)
The season of Advent is all about preparation. My life as a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about preparation. I am to be preparing myself to live eternally with my LORD and I am to be helping others to do the same. A key element to that preparation is to know with whom I am preparing to spend eternity. That isn’t a simple answer as God is not simple. Jesus is the closest to God that I have somehow seen. Who is Jesus?
My first recollection of Jesus was the manger scene that my mother put out every Christmas. I loved lying in front of the tree and moving the figures around, the donkey in the shelter to be warm or outside the shelter to make more clean room for the new baby. The Christmas I was six, my brother had to have an emergency appendectomy. I remember lying in front of the tree in tears as I asked Baby Jesus to take care of my brother. Then there was another Christmas when my dad was out of work. The nativity scene, a box of fruit from Great-Aunt Florence and two gifts, one for me and one for my brother, were the only gifts that year. In a year that was very different with my dad at home and my mother taking a job in a retail store, it was comforting somehow that little things like the manger under the tree remained the same.
Jesus the Baby is a picture of innocence and the comfort that comes from accepting life as a child. God came to this earth, not in glorious, thundering power but in the helpless, dependent form of a newborn. Jesus, like all the newborns that we have seen, held or given birth to, was relying on His human parents for safety, warmth, nourishment, and care. When danger came through King Herod’s plot, 10,000 angels did not come with swords and destroy the king. It was Joseph’s obedience to a dream that saved the Messiah’s life. Who are You, Jesus?
On the one hand, Jesus is the innocent faith of a child who believes in me when no one else does. He calls me out to be His ambassador knowing all my weaknesses. He puts my hand in His hand and comforts me in the darkest days, without words, but with His unconditional love, just as a child does. Jesus spends endless hours with me, doing repetitive things, never tiring, just enjoying being with me. He knows that healing comes with a kiss just as much as with an antibiotic and band-aid.
And, on the other hand, Jesus asks me to believe like an innocent child. A child believes because someone he trusts tells him something is so. There’s no logic. He just trusts. It is a sad day when the child learns that people will let him down. He learns that his parents are human and frail. They make mistakes. It is a blessed child who has been taught about Jesus and so he has that relationship that will never fail. Because of that trust in Jesus, he will learn about forgiveness and unconditional love.
Yes, Jesus is the Baby snuggled into a wooden crib that was a manger in a shelter meant for animals. He is there to give me my first lesson: Look beyond the obvious and see the truth of what is and what will be (in His Kingdom!).
Mary’s Boy Child written by Jester Hairston (1956) and sung by Harry Belafonte