If you look carefully, among the lights, tinsel and brightly coloured decorations at your local shopping centre, you might also see a modest display depicting a stable.
All the usual suspects are there, Mary, Joseph, the animals, some shepherds and in the feeding trough, a small baby.
I read an interesting article around this time last year titled, “Most Australians like seeing baby Jesus in a manger at the mall”.
McCrindle research has shows that 9 out of 10 Australians feel that nativity scenes are part of Christmas and should be in our public spaces.
Even among Australians who practise a religion other than Christianity, 91 per cent are happy to see nativities, while 86 per cent of those who have no religious beliefs are also supportive, according to McCrindle.
While I’m encouraged to know that most Aussies still see the connection between baby Jesus and Christmas as important, we still seem a long way from allowing a place for the grown-up version of Jesus in public.
We seem to like the Jesus of Christmas.
I wonder if that’s because a baby is cute and inoffensive. Baby Jesus doesn’t throw the money changers out of the temple. Baby Jesus doesn’t call us to leave behind what the rest of the world is chasing to follow him. Baby Jesus doesn’t hang brutally beaten and bleeding from a cross in our place.
Despite protests from his wife and father-in-law, Will Ferrell’s character in the 2006 movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby prefers baby Jesus to adult Jesus. In the scene in the video below, everyone gets to choose their ‘favourite version of Jesus’.
Choose your Jesus
It’s a funny scene but there’s a lot of truth behind it. Many people seem to think they can choose their own Jesus. I hear people saying what they believe Jesus would and wouldn’t think about a range of issues without actually going to the source of information that truly reveals who Jesus was and is … the Bible.
I’ll certainly be celebrating the baby Jesus this Christmas but I refuse to leave him in a manger. The miracle of ‘God with us’ is truly awesome but the fact that God dwelt among us by taking on flesh must lead us to thinking of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Focussing on more than just the baby Jesus at this time of year makes the Christmas story even more wonderful and has consequences for each of us that stretch into eternity. That baby grew into a man who would change history. He changed history because he was not only a man but the God who defined history in the first place.
If you’re one of the majority of people who enjoy seeing the nativity at this time each year, let me encourage you to marvel at the manger but then look beyond to see Jesus for who he became and who he is.
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