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What can I give Him?
(Struggler note #1) - When I started writing The Bright & Morning Star several months ago, I assumed the writing would get easier as I went along. Not so. Case in point - today’s post has been harder to write than any I’ve written so far. Every word has been a knife fight, and I’m the guy without the knife. But one must keep at it, even when the impulse to wave the white flag is sometimes strong.)
(Struggler note #2) - Trying to write about the only perfect Person who ever lived on the earth…🙄
(Struggler note #3) - These posts are normally written 2-3 weeks (or more) in advance of when they’re published. But this one? I’m writing these words less than 24 hours before they’re scheduled to be published. #DeadlineDespair
Whatever that was, it’s now over. If I didn’t already lose you…
Which way to the manger?
How far am I—right now, at this exact moment—from the manger? This is my great question and recurring struggle at Christmastime.
That profound scene, so full of drama and promise and yes, future heartbreak, never fails to move me. The participants—each potent with meaning, invite reflection.
A devoted father, and yet not yet one.
A submissive new mother in the throes of childbirth, delivering her (and everyone’s) Deliverer.
The baby. A son. The Son. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” Helpless. Innocent. New baby smell. Laid in a little makeshift cradle. Jesus, once of humble birth indeed.
The shepherds. Gentle, caring, observant. They knew their sheep by name, each and every one. They gathered them into places of safety. And their eyes were always, always fixed on their flock.
Me, you, everyone. Will we seek Him, whatever the cost? Will we strive to keep the feeling of that holy night when doing so only gets harder?
“I didn’t bring a gift”
My problem with Christmas is mostly a problem with how easy it is to lose sight of why we celebrate it. Don’t get me wrong. The traditions and trappings of the season are lovely and lifting and so needed in a time of year that for some is filled with loneliness and heartache. But there is also a lot of noise and commercial clutter that can easily pull one away from one’s search for the babe in the manger.
We put a lot of weight on Christmas, don’t we? The traditions, the music, perfect presents-perfectly wrapped, family gatherings, the food—the list is long.
Remember Mr. Krueger’s Christmas? I love the scene where Mr. Krueger (played by Mr. James Stewart, no less) imagines himself in the manger. But no one can see or hear him. (Loneliness is a big theme of the film.) He draws close to the baby Jesus, who does see and hear him, and that's when the moment comes. You can watch the entire scene here.
A highlight for me is when he apologizes to the Savior. “I didn’t bring a gift.”
Not so, Mr. Krueger. I think you brought THE gift He wants most—perhaps the only one He asks from us: A life devoted to serving others just like He did. What finer gift could we give?
(A bonus bit of loveliness from a 2003 interview with Michael McLean, the screenwriter of the film.)
During the filming of the movie, the actor approached one scene with great solemnity. It was the scene of him talking to Jesus. Before filming of that scene began, [Stewart] announced, "I've got only one of these in me. Everyone who doesn't need to be here, get them out. Tell them I want this to go well. I can do other takes, but this will be the right one. There will only be one."
After he finished the scene, McLean asked the cameraman, "Did you get it?"
"I hope so," he replied, "because I was crying."
What can I bring Him?
In answer to the question no one is asking, one of my favorite Christmas carols is In the Bleak Midwinter, written originally as a poem by English poet Christina Rossetti. I discovered there are hundreds of versions of the song, many of them quite lovely. The final stanza provides the title and also the underlying theme of this post.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
There are so many things I want to give Him. But what do you give someone who has everything, right?
There is one thing, actually. One thing He won’t ever take from us. One thing He wants most.
"The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely, personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we `give' are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God's will, then, we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!"
So, back to my original question: How far am I—right now, at this exact moment—from the manger? No one but myself is keeping me from finding Him there. If I want to feel how Mr. Krueger felt as he knelt before the Savior, I can. More importantly, what I do when I leave the manger will determine whether or not I keep the feeling found there.
Remembering Him. Obeying Him. Following Him. Loving Him. Each one is important. Each is a gift I can give.
For me, I feel closest to Him when I am serving others. That is the gift I resolve once again to offer. To go in His love to the lonely, the sorrowing, the sick and the weary. That is the gift I can give to Him for Christmas and always.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
Next week on The Bright & Morning Star:
The story of my first Christmas. I was 19. It happened in Arizona. And it’s when my journey to the manger began. I look forward to sharing it with you. Merry Christmas!
One last thing, in case you’ve made it this far.
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Consider this your early present to me! 🎅🏼 Thank you!
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