By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director; Missionary for Missions Education/Customization; Missions Innovator Specialist WMU, SBC
Christmas is a time of celebration and traditions. Because we have blended traditions at our house we have many. But there is one tradition that is perhaps a bit unusual.
One morning after decorating for Christmas, I came down the stairs into our living room to find a most unusual site. There at the manger scene were multiple G.I. Joe figures. Some were laying on their stomachs the roof of the manger scene with weapons in hand. Others were hanging from the roof of the manger scene looking down at Baby Jesus. And a few were standing behind the manger scene with heads barely visible and weapons in hand.
My first reaction was to remind our sons that the manger scene was not a place to play, but a reminder of the birth of Jesus. Before I began my lecture that morning I asked the purpose of the G.I. Joe figures around the manger scene. I certainly was not expecting the answer I got. Nathan, our second born, replied, “I put them there. They are guarding Baby Jesus so Herod can’t get him.”
Who could argue with that? The boys never heard the lecture I was prepared to give. Every year since then our manger scene has housed a few G.I. figures for the purpose of “guarding Baby Jesus.” Even though the memory brings a smile to my face the G.I. Joe figures remind me that I should be intentional about “guarding” Baby Jesus during the Christmas season and every other season.
The changing times are no less dangerous to the real reason for Christmas than Herod was to the Baby Jesus lying at the manger. “Happy Holidays” has taken the place of “Merry Christmas.” Prayer is no longer allowed in public schools. Bible studies are no longer allowed on the campuses of public schools. The debate of rather “In God We Trust” should remain on our currencies or “One Nation Under God” should stay in our Pledge of Allegiance. Marriage is being redefined as something other than between a man and a woman. Church membership is on the decline. New rhetoric applied to freedom of speech when citizens are vocal about Biblical standards. With each new trend or law I have to wonder if I’m doing my part to “guard Baby Jesus.”
Luke 10:27a says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” That is how we “guard” Jesus. The way we live life, both as individuals and as the church, is what gives Jesus his reputation among non-believers.
When we love the Lord with all our heart, then the words that come out of our mouths are edifying rather than destructive. Matt. 12:34b says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” If our hearts are not overflowing with the love of Jesus then perhaps our words come out sounding like something other than that of a follower of Jesus. During this season, fill your heart with Christ and allow that to be the overflow that comes out of the mouth. The response might surprise you.
Loving Jesus with our minds is thinking on these things, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” Phil. 4:8. It is amazing how grumpiness and irritability is instantly gone when we practice this advice from Paul.
Loving Jesus with our soul is reflected in our actions. In Matthew chapter 2 the wise men knew Jesus had been born because they saw his bright star. We are His bright stars today leading others to Christ when are living lives of integrity in ALL things big and small, taking responsibility for ALL our actions good and bad, and our attitudes reflect ALL of the fruit of the spirit. We love Jesus with our soul when we seek Jesus everyday just as the wise men did on that day.
In the day of Jesus’ birth He was a threat to Herod. I wonder, is the church still a threat to powers today? Are our words an overflow of Christ in our heart? Are our thoughts on all that is good? Are we the stars that lead men to Christ? Is the testimony of our life “guarding” the reputation of Jesus?
During this Christmas season, let us all be intentional about “guarding Baby Jesus” so that others might come to know Him today as the Savior of the world.