When I was a kid, my mom had one of those historically, biblically, racially, and archaeologically incorrect Nativity sets. You know—the kind where everyone is well-dressed, stark-white, the three Wise Men show up with the shepherds, and they’re all just chilling in a fancy half-barn with the donkey that Mary might not have really ridden on? Who builds half of a barn? Is there no weather in Bethlehem? Here’s what was right about the Nativity set: baby Jesus was in a nasty little wooden box. The Bible calls it a manger.
You know what else I loved about the set? Baby Jesus wasn’t glued to the manger. When no one was looking, I’d rescue Him from that little wooden box intended for feeding those miniature visiting camels to take Him on adventures with me. I’d like to think it was a service to the camels and mystery donkey. Jesus and I would play cars under the open dishwasher door. We’d hunt bugs outside. I’d also hide Jesus, to keep Him to myself. My mom would find Him. My mom always knows where to find Jesus. Do you know where to find Jesus? One time I badly broke baby Jesus, by accident of course.
Baby Jesus still lives at my mom’s house today, superglued body parts and all. But you know what? Jesus somehow came with me, too. I was six years old when I saw a low-budget show on our barely color CRT television where Jesus was dying on the cross. That seemed like a terrible thing to do to Jesus. So I asked my dad why. He told me it was because God wants to be with us. Our brokenness and bad choices keep us from Him. So God sent Jesus, to give His life as a way to make our bad go away for good. With that, I decided I should probably give my life to Jesus. He’s been with me since.
At 31, Jesus and I go on different kinds of adventures. Can I just say that the real Jesus isn’t glued down either? He wasn’t stuck in Heaven with His Father. He came into my world, first as a baby in a manger. Then He was broken badly by me, for me, to rescue me from the nasty little boxes I get stuck in, and give His life so I could really live. Do you need to be rescued? What has Jesus done to be with you? What are you willing to do to be with Him?
Jesus and I don’t play cars anymore, but when I wrecked our van with my pregnant wife and all our little kids in it, I’m was glad He was there. We’ve been through funerals together, natural disasters, weddings, graduations, hospitals, new jobs, new cities, coffee shops, and sometimes we even still hunt bugs together. Though, we usually bring my two little boys along for that.
You know what? I’m finally learning to stop hiding Jesus. I realized it’s nearly impossible to have Jesus without also sharing Jesus.
The more I think about baby Jesus and my mom’s Nativity set, the more I think that weird half-barn isn’t so bad. What if our homes, churches, and lives were like half-barns? Wide-open, honest, and welcoming—so anyone could come in, find Jesus, and take Him from that nasty little manger into their lives.
Isn’t that why God put Him there?