Who's in Your Stable?
“What’s she doing with that camel?” We all were wondering silently about our friend’s choice to put the camel in the stable right where the Baby Jesus would eventually go.
It’s our family’s tradition, when all of our adult children are finally gathered together for our Christmas celebration, to fill the empty stable sitting in the corner of our living room. From the time they were old enough to be trusted with the figurines, they have assembled the holy scene. Each year my husband unwraps the treasured figures and hands them out, one by one, beginning with the lowly animals and finishing with the Holy Family.
This particular year we had a houseguest from China who was totally unfamiliar with the biblical Christmas story. We wanted her to be included in all of our family customs so she could experience in full her first Christian Christmas. She therefore joined the others to assemble the nativity scene.
We watched in amazement the choices she was making. She decided the logical place for a camel, since it was an animal, would be in the barn, the stable. But then as she watched others placing the shepherds facing the stable opening, she realized they were there to honor something or someone. She quietly moved her camel to join the other two.
But then came the magi, the three wise men. She received the third one, the kingly one with the crown on his head. Confidently she placed this figure where the camel had originally been. She turned him to face outward so as to receive the kneeling shepherds and the adoration of the other magi, who seemed less kingly.
This caught us all by surprise. We held our comments to ourselves however. And then my husband carefully unwrapped the angel… and then Joseph… and then Mary, who, one by one, were carefully placed around the “king.”
Finally it was the honor of our youngest child to carry the precious baby to join the waiting figures. He carefully repositioned the “king” to the outside circle and gently placed the Baby Jesus in the center.
“Oh, it’s the baby they’re all looking at!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, dear one,” I thought to myself. “And you are going to hear a lot more about that baby in the coming days.”
I pondered for quite some time about what had motivated our guest to put that king in the place of Jesus. But the more I thought about it, I realized her reaction and actions were totally in line with the thinking of a world that doesn’t follow our Lord Jesus.
The world honors, respects, bows down to symbols of power and wealth. This is what the kingly looking wise man exhibited to her. In her eyes, of course he should be the focus. She simply was reflecting the natural response to the humble beginnings of our Lord Jesus. How could this baby, born in a stable of all places, be the center of our salvation? It makes no sense.
That evening was a good lesson, a good reminder to my family and me not to take for granted our understanding of the Gospel message, the story of the saving grace of our Lord Jesus. That experience gave freshness to our Christmas that year, watching someone’s first acquaintance with that old, old story of Jesus and His love.
But then I wondered how I was taking this Christmas stable message into my heart. Was it as fresh and amazing to me after so many years of knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior? And I wondered how this misunderstanding of her focus reflected on my choices. It caused me to take stock of what I was putting in the center of my stable.
Are we sometimes placing a worldly “king” at the center of what we are doing? If our family or company or organization is putting this earthly power and wealth as the focus of our attention, the heart of our plans and goals, then we’re seeing with the wrong eyes.
But when our attention is turned to the true center of the stable, that Divine Child, then there is a natural alignment with what the Lord Jesus wishes for us.
So how do I know I’m looking with the right eyes? How do I know I’m aligning what I say and do with Him?
The Apostle Paul had a simple answer to this: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Do everything, whatever it is, to glorify my Lord Jesus. That’s the measurement. So simple to understand, but at times so difficult to follow.
But that is my prayer, as I once again enjoy that ageless story, to put Him at the center of my stable, my life. To have the eyes to recognize my Lord Jesus as the true King no matter what the season.
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
(First published at Lead Like Jesus December 2019)