I knew him, as a child. My mother taught me to pray to him, speak to him, and she made him real through the nativity, at Christmas. We lived in Damascus, Syria, for a few years and on our way back to the US, we traveled through the Holy Land. I was still young and didn’t understand the significance, as well as my parents, but I did believe in Jesus. Our trip to the Church of the Nativity was especially significant. I loved dolls and laying in a manger, in an alcove in the wall, was a porcelain baby Jesus. He was beautiful and sweet. If only I could hold him. Our guide told us he was not permitted to allow me to hold the figure, but there was something on my face that moved him. Carefully, supporting the precious figurine, he took the baby Jesus from its shelf and placed him in my arms. I felt this incredible surge of love as I looked in baby Jesus’ eyes. I was deeply touched by this incredible gift of trust from the guide. In a matter of seconds, the guide, who was supporting the statue under my arms, carefully lifted the “baby” back to its rightful place. It was a moment I will never forget. Holding and admiring this baby Jesus, though not real, helped me see him as a real person.
In writing this, I became curious as to whether or not that figurine was still at the Church of the Nativity. So, I started doing research and found that there is a beautiful effigy of the infant Jesus on display in the lower level of the Grotto. I couldn’t remember if this was the “baby” I saw, as a child, and was determined to find out if this precious effigy was originally seated somewhere else in the church.
I spent over an hour reading, site after site, searching an answer, to no avail. I even posted the question, on a Catholic website, to see if I would get an answer to whether this baby Jesus had indeed been moved from its’ original place. Then, this soft voice prompted me to question my motives. Why was I searching about a effigy, made from stone, when the REAL Jesus was in my heart? What was prompting me to run after an idol? Still, I continued my search for awhile longer, tired but still curious. Finally, I stopped. And then….the conviction came. I spent all this time looking for something elusive, when I could have been searching scripture to seek intimacy with the true Christ. I felt ashamed and asked forgiveness. Later, during my Bible study time, this verse stood out to me. ” The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” Psalm 135:15-18 Also, in Exodus 20: 4-5, God forbids us to worship any gods beside him and says, ” You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them….”
Now, let me clarify that admiring a work of art, such as the Christ Child Effigy, is not the same as WORSHIPPING it. However, the time I was spending on this effigy was a sin. My memory of holding the effigy is NOT a sin, but my obsession of it WAS a sin. I would still be “tickled” if MY baby Jesus is the same one as shown, today, in the Church of the Nativity. It was such an honor to have “held” him. However, this experience is NOTHING compared to the riches I have, and can have, knowing Christ, my Savior. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and unfathomable are his ways!” Romans 11:33
What are YOU searching for, today? Are you searching for meaning in your life or are you searching for the wind? God promises us so much through his son, Jesus. When we seek him, we will find him. Forgiveness, peace, and the promise of eternal life are yours if you believe and trust in him. Let’s turn to him, today. “I pray that the eyes of your” (and my) “heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Ephesians 1:18