Ed, my neighbor next door, is almost set for his trip to Mexico for Christmas week. Ruby, Ed’s wife, claims that Ed’s ready to go except for a positive attitude. “You’d think going to Mexico with his family was a sentence to death row. There would have been less grumbling if he had had to donate a kidney to his long-time, despised cousin, Ralph. Right now, Cousin Ralph is looking like a bargain compared to my stubborn, unhappy, grumbling husband, Ed.”
“I told Ed that he may be going as a skeptic, but he will return delighted that he went to Mexico and have no regrets,” I shared with Ruby.
“Do you know, Ed can hold a grudge longer than an elephant? He is still mad at his cousin, Ralph, for accidentally shooting him in the seat with a pellet gun when they were kids. If he doesn’t warm up to the Mexican Christmas trip, I’ll never hear the end of it,” Ruby offered.
As Christmas comes so close that it’s almost at the door, many struggle to adjust their attitude to merry, or joyous, or thankful. The first Christmas, God had to send a heavenly host of angels to praise and sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” He knows how easily we are found here on earth grumbling and holding grudges, lost in unhappiness and sour attitudes.
God seemed to know that few then or now are open to His appearance on earth. Who but shepherds living out in the fields watching their sheep at night were alert and able to see the angel and heavenly host in the sky? We know Bethlehem was busy – filled with travelers who came to be counted for the census. We know the inn was full and God’s son was born in a stable wrapped in cloths and laid in a manager. Only a few shepherds came to Bethlehem and saw the baby lying in a manager. They alone returned to the fields praising and glorifying God. They had heard from the angel that the baby was the Christ the Lord.
Regrets are not about our circumstances, but our attitude. A stable isn’t an ideal place to give birth to a baby, but I believe Mary was most thankful for the birth of her firstborn baby boy as she laid him in the manager. Perhaps the words of Tina McFadden in her poem “Never Before” express what Mary felt looking at Jesus. “Never before has a person loved – an ear, an eye, and a mouth so much. – ten mini fingers, ten tiny toes, – a chin, a shin, a sweet little nose.” We know that Mary treasured up the birth of her firstborn and the visit of the shepherds and pondered them in her heart. We know her own heart was pierced when she watched her grown son die upon the cross.
I wonder if any of the shepherds asked if they might hold the baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manager. It is hard not to snuggle and carefully cuddle an infant. Is it hard to accept a baby from heaven willing to hold us in love to the point of giving his life to spare ours? God’s attitude is love to all for all time in His son.