by Jill Rigby Garner
We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NASB
The first Friday night in December came again in my hometown, but this year North Boulevard was different. The annual “Jingle Bell Run” was nearing an end. But rather than head home, many of the runners waited to experience the wonder of the first Christmas. Above the sound of jingling bells, the sweet refrain of “Away in a manger” could be heard floating through downtown. Goats, sheep and livestock grazed near a stable. Mary and Joseph took their places near the manger to await the arrival of a newborn who would reign over the earth. Shepherds kept watch with their sheep. Wise Men prepared gifts for the King.
People came from near and far. Elderly folks arrived in vans to view the manger, while school children came to see the animals and meet the special baby. Families gathered round the crèche to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. The return of the Live Nativity had finally come.
As the chorus of “Silent Night” brought the evening to a close, children were invited to come to the manger. The youngest children quickly ran past the livestock to draw near baby Jesus. A precious young girl, not much beyond four, with eyes that sparkled in the soft starlight, climbed in Mary’s lap and asked if she could tell Jesus a secret.
Mary looked in those adoring eyes and said, “Yes, my child. Jesus came for you.”
The trusting child leaned forward lifting the wrap from Jesus’ face to gently kiss his forehead and whisper, “I love you, too, Jesus.” Not, I love you, but I love you, too. The most profound proclamation of the gospel ever uttered. Tears streamed down the faces of all blessed to hear the words of her heart. Not only did she understand the gospel message, she received it by responding with love to the one who had first loved her.
Out of the mouth of a babe came the poignant message that God loved us first and sent His love to us through His Son that silent night so long ago. He delivered our Savior, who would deliver us from the destruction of sin and the emptiness of ourselves. The One who would heal our wounds with His. The One who would listen when no one else would listen. The One who would walk amongst us, feed us, cry with us and show us how to love.
This Christmas can be different for you too. This Christmas you can find healing from the hurts of the past. Comfort in the pain of your struggles. Peace amidst the chaos and confusion of our world. Courage to walk out your faith. And love everlasting at the manger.
May God’s holy light lead you to Jesus this year to behold with the wonder of a child, the gift of Christmas, as your soul murmurs the words He longs to hear and you long to speak, “I love you, too.”
Merry, Merry Christmas from my heart to yours.
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Jill Rigby Garner is an accomplished speaker, family advocate, author, and founder of Manners of the Heart®, a non-profit seeking to reawaken respect in our society for the sake of the next generation. By equipping schools, encouraging families and engaging communities in respect-based Heart Education, Manners of the Heart® helps children see beyond themselves and their circumstances to become all they are meant to be. Visit mannersoftheheart.org to learn more.
Join the conversation: What Christmas memory do you have that is most meaningful to you?