You know the words:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes;
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
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 thee there.
With “Away in a Manger” running (and running… and running… ) through my head, it’s easy to focus on sweet baby Jesus, laying calmly in a bed of straw, never making a fuss even when he wets his swaddling cloths. That Jesus is easy to love. He’s non-threatening, making no demands on my time or resources. Baby Jesus doesn’t ask me to give up my pet sins. He doesn’t ask me to love the unlovable. He doesn’t ask me to lay down my life for His sake.
Before I became a Christian, my mental image of Jesus was the one in so many paintings, of this mild, blonde-haired, blue-eyed guy carrying a lamb. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed. Why would I turn my life over to some wimp?
Then Jesus came and introduced himself to me. He didn’t knock on my dorm door and shake my hand, at least not physically, but little by little he revealed himself in my mind and emotions, through his followers and through the Bible. (You can read all about it in my May 14, 2013 post). The Jesus I have come to know is no wimp!
When confronted with a person asking us to lay everything on the line for his sake, shouldn’t we take the time to know who he is? After all, I’m not about to turn over my life to just anyone! Yes, we can know Jesus better by reading and rereading the Gospels. In fact, I’m doing just that in my daily devotionals.
The problem is that I’ve read them so many times. The stories are so familiar that I struggle to see anything new. Sometimes it helps to get another perspective. That’s why I’m also rereading one of my favorite books: The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey. Yancey has a gift in the way he articulates Biblical truths, giving us new insight into scripture we’ve read many times before.
If you’re looking for a way to make Advent more meaningful, I highly recommend this book. I was going to write my own book summary, but the one at Amazon.com is so good, I’m just going to quote it here:
Yancey helps reveal what two thousand years of history covered up What happens when a respected Christian journalist decides to put his preconceptions aside and take a long look at the Jesus described in the Gospels? How does the Jesus of the New Testament compare to the ‘new, rediscovered’ Jesus—or even the Jesus we think we know so well? Philip Yancey offers a new and different perspective on the life of Christ and his work—his teachings, his miracles, his death and resurrection—and ultimately, who he was and why he came. From the manger in Bethlehem to the cross in Jerusalem, Yancey presents a complex character who generates questions as well as answers; a disturbing and exhilarating Jesus who wants to radically transform your life and stretch your faith. The Jesus I Never Knew uncovers a Jesus who is brilliant, creative, challenging, fearless, compassionate, unpredictable, and ultimately satisfying. ‘No one who meets Jesus ever stays the same,’ says Yancey. ‘Jesus has rocked my own preconceptions and has made me ask hard questions about why those of us who bear his name don’t do a better job of following him.’