Gina, Brian and their four young daughters had spent the entire day at her parents celebrating with family. Now, as they slipped into the back of the church for Christmas Eve service, Gina surveyed those around her and became painfully aware that her family had arrived not in little red dresses and black shiny shoes, but jeans, sweatshirts and tennis shoes. "Oh brother." she sighed.
When the pastor invited all the children to come close for the children's message, Gina groaned and then watched as her eldest, Bethany, scurried down the isle hugging everyone she knew on the isle seats. As the pastor complimented the little ones on their fancy attire, Gina wanted to leave.
Then he asked this question, "What are we waiting for tonight?" Bethany's hand shot straight up in the air and "Hanukkah!" came forth. After clearing that up he asked another question, "What is something you've had to wait for"? Again Bethany's hand shot straight up and she said, "Well, I've had to wait for my mom to wake up from a nap. Wait, and wait, and wait and wait." Gina's head found its way into her hands.
As my friend told me this story I was laughing with her and feeling her pain. As a mom with young children at the time I identified with wanting to feel joy and pride in the way our children represent our family. I want to be the mom whose children are dressed nicely and give the answers that tell we know Jesus in our home. Not necessarily the one whose child has sat down in the middle of the song, in front of the whole church, to pick his nose, or flip up her dress. (I do recognize the pride here, I'm just being honest.)
I reflected on Gina's story a lot the next day. I thought about how it really was a great Christmas story.
Bethany, though a young child loves the Lord. I thought about how much like Jesus she really was. Had Jesus been at that service, I don't think he would have been any more dressed up than he normally was; when we read of the wedding in Galilee, there was no mention of his fancy garb. When Jesus walked among the people he would greet them along the way, remember how he called out to Zacchaeus - and he wasn't even near the isle, he was up in a tree!
Luke 18:16-17 says, "But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
Oh, that we could all be a little more like Bethany - greeting, shaking hands and hugging all the friends we meet along our way. That we would wave our hand with excitement to give the answers, and that in our excitement we would not worry about shouting out a response that is different from what is expected. That we should all smile as big as Bethany does because she knows Jesus is in her heart.
I was not at this particular Christmas Eve service, and even if I had been, there is no way to be sure, but I am certain that Jesus was smiling at Bethany that night. Had Jesus shown up in the flesh, I can only imagine how I might have responded to his presence, but I believe, without a doubt, that a smiling Bethany would have run full blast into his arms.
I don't know about you, but I want to be more like Bethany.