We often read and talk about how the shepherds visited Jesus after He was born that starry night in Bethlehem. This group of hard-working dudes showed up after hearing the good news from a host of Angels and worshipped Jesus. In reading that story, I often forget about two other people who were right there too…Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph.
If you’ve ever visited a newborn, you’ve experienced new Mommas’ and Daddys’ sheer awe, excitement, exhaustion, and carefulness with their new son or daughter. We make sure we aren’t bringing germs into the room, have washed our hands, aren’t feeling any flu symptoms, and receive careful instructions from Mom and Dad when holding the new baby. It’s a precious and beautiful moment celebrating new life.
When I think about my experiences visiting friends and their newborn babies in the hospital, I can’t help but think about how stark of a contrast my visits must be compared to the shepherds’ visit that night…to really the whole delivery experience that night!
We’re used to inviting people into clean, germ-free, safe environments. Mary welcomed visitors into a dirty, stinky, not-so-safe environment. And her visitors? I don’t think (and this is just a guess!) that after hearing from the Angels they stopped home real quick to clean up before heading to visit Jesus. I think they ran to find Him so that they could worship Him immediately, as they were.
When they arrived, Mary welcomed them. In fact, Luke 2:18-19 shares that Mary treasured the moment: “All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”
She didn’t survey the lot of her visitors and turn them away out of fear that they were too dirty or messy. She welcomed them in to experience the wonder of Jesus just as they were, and then she treasured the experience herself.
What would life look like if we invited people into the wonder of Jesus just as they are…messes and all? Rather than trying to clean them up first, what if we open our hearts and our arms and loved people where they’re at?
It’s in inviting people into the wonder of Jesus that they can experience the hope we have in Christ…and in experiencing hope in Christ, they can begin a relationship with Him and be transformed from the inside out.
Wherever you are this Christmas, risk it. Rather than assuming we know someone’s story, let’s open our hands and trust God with that person by opening our hearts and loving them today, for who they are. And that love-as-you-are posture? Well, that has the power to invite that person into the grand wonder of Jesus…the ultimate love-as-you-are leader…and when they experience that? They’ll never walk away the same.
And friend, does a love-as-you-are posture mean you step in and do, do, do for someone? Not at all. Mary simply loved the shepherds as they were and invited them into the presence of Jesus. She didn’t change who she was or go out of her way to do something for them. She was simply Mary. And she chose to not belittle, demean, or diminish this group of guys. She just invited them into Jesus’ presence by loving them as they were. That’s inviting people into the wonder of Jesus.