Sunday, December 17, 2017

Away in a Manger Baby

by Jennifer Smith

Tomorrow I will be 37. I will not have a party and probably not a cake, either. And that’s okay. This season of my life puts me firmly in the deep throes of motherhood. I’m currently nursing three sick children. There is a shelf in my refrigerator that is entirely devoted to pink medicine for each of my sons. I have cleaned up at least three throw up incidents and have had various bodily fluids dripping down my shirt.

I certainly do not feel precious.

But I remember a time when I was. I was three. I stood up on the stage at my little country church and with a microphone in my chubby little hands sang Away in a Manger for our church Christmas service. 

Would you believe me if I told you I remember it fairly well? I remember exactly where I stood. I remember clearly singing my verse. I remember the director having to take the microphone from said chubby hand because I wouldn’t give it up. I remember feeling loved, cherished, and special.

Completely precious.

I was the Away in a Manger Baby. Dearly and wholly loved in my red tights that could barely conceal the rolls of my fat little legs.

Last week this memory came to mind as I stood in my kitchen pouring coffee. The morning was rushed and I had no time to devote to Jesus and Scripture. (Because, hey, it doesn’t always happen. Guess what? Jesus still loves you.)

But I turned my mind toward Jesus and offered Him a few moments of thought. My thoughts were of worship and I felt compelled, out of the blue, to sing Away in a Manger. I sang the verse that goes:

Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me, I pray
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven to live with me there.

The song, the memory, they sting a bit.  Because I’m not that tiny, chubby girl anymore. I think of her and the knocks that will come her way. She’ll endure some hard and terrible things. Like most of us, life will get very scrappy looking. The grown up version of her feels tarnished and cold and worn out and roughed up.

But then, a knock on my heart as Jesus whispers:

You’re still my Away in a Manger Baby. 
You’re still precious in my sight.

Because of course I am.

And, friend, you are, too.

We may not see ourselves as precious and tender and spotless, but Jesus does. We may not see ourselves as lovable or sweet. 

But Jesus does.

In fact, I believe we are all the more precious to Him because of our worn-out-ness. Because of our hard places. I think we are now loved differently by Him. Not more or better, but differently. Because we’ve tried and tested and pleaded and cried. He’s seen the hurts and He’s doctored them. As any long term relationship deepens, so has ours with our Savior.

My three year old, cute as a button self was dearly loved. But she had no idea how much.

This grown up woman does. This woman has walked a road requiring great faith and Jesus has met her every step of the way. He has seen her faith and belief. He knows of her great love for the Baby in the Manger. 

When she sings the song today, it might not look as cute or be on a stage in front of adoring faces, but it is felt and sung to the Manger Baby with as much worship and heart as she can muster. Her song at the coffee pot. 

Friend, just because life has worn us in some places does not make us less lovable. Just because life can make us feel cold does not make our Savior cold toward us. Just because another birthday rolls around does not take away my rank of being His precious child.

Oh, to see how much we are loved, all of us Away in a Manger Babies. So dearly loved by the Baby in the Manger.

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