Empty-Handed at the Manger
Empty-Handed at the Manger
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I woke up this morning, long before anyone else in my family was awake, wanting to bring something beautiful to God. I wanted to come bringing Him a squeaky clean heart, a list of things I’m grateful for, and a grand idea for how to study His word in a powerful, very “this is Christmas Eve!” way today.
Instead, I flipped the switch to turn on the Christmas tree lights, plopped down on the couch in the dimly lit living room, pulled a blanket over my legs, reached for my Bible and journal, and stared at what was in my lap, realizing the truth: I’m a bit depleted today. Although I want to be helpful and refreshing and non-burdensome to those around me; and although I want to be one of God’s dependable, trustworthy kids who follow His lead and is a powerful source of help to the world— the truth is I am just as desperate for Jesus as everyone else. Perhaps more so.
The definition of “harried” is “Feeling strained as a result of having demands persistently made on one; harassed.”
The pace of the last few weeks has left me harried. Me and “super busy” don’t get along too well.
As I ponder the Nativity set on my fireplace mantle, I realize that, if I’m honest with myself, what I want is to be like one of the Wise Men in the Christmas story. I want to be observant enough to see what God is telling the world, brave enough to go on a treacherous journey to discover what unknown miracle waits on the other side of His leading, discerning enough to recognize which people I encounter are or are not trustworthy, and I want to come to Jesus bearing amazing gifts. I want to just be a blessing to Him. I want to be someone He can count on to show up in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, with Him as my constant focus and motivation.
But, of course, I’m too much of a mixed bag to be that awesome 100% of the time.
Truth be told, I think I identify more with the shepherds in the story told in Luke 2:8-20: I’m minding my own business, trying to do a good job with what’s in front of me, and I’m messy— very likely covered in the dirt and grime of whatever I’m involved with. There is nothing particularly special about me, nothing anyone else in my world would look at and recognize as noteworthy.
AND YET… just as He did with that ancient bunch of hill-dwelling shepherds, God has chosen to proactively come to me and let me get a peek at who He is and what He offers the world:
“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Unlike the Magi, when the shepherds arrived at Jesus’ bedside, they had nothing but the clothes on their back, their shepherds’ staffs, possibly a herd of sheep following them, and hearts full of awe. All they could offer Him was their admiration and gratitude. All they could do was receive the gifts of salvation, peace, and hope that their Messiah offered them.
Which makes me feel needy and pitiful and a bit… dependent. I’ve got nothing to offer. Especially today. All I can do is humble myself, and open up my hands to receive what He so generously offers me: salvation from my sins, peace for my soul, and hope for the abundant life He says is His intention for me. Al I can do in response is kneel in awe and gratitude.
Which, actually, is totally fine now that I think about it.
True, the shepherds didn’t bring Jesus anything that first Christmas morning. Just like I so often feel like I don’t have anything beautiful to offer Him. But He knew that is what He was jumping into when He left the comfort of heaven to put skin on and come walk this earth.
It’s a glorious, unfathomable mystery.
And so this Christmas I, like the dirty shepherds two thousand years ago, come just as I am. Empty-handed, open-hearted, in awe, and full of gratitude.
Thank You, Lord, for coming for me. Thank You for inviting me to be a part of your glorious story of redemption. Thank You for welcoming me no matter what condition I come in. I am forever indebted to You. Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus. Amen.
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What about you?
Which character in the Christmas story (told in Luke 1:26-2:21 and Matthew 1:18-2:12) do you relate to today? If you could kneel in that stinky stable next to the newborn Lord, what would You want to say to Him?
Please share your journey in the comment section below.