And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger… And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Lk 2:16, 20
Sometimes the shepherd boys in the manger scene look a little too young. Isn’t it a little late for this 6-year-old to be helping to watch the sheep? Maybe things were just different back then—I don’t know. But here’s a thought.
Imagine that the youngest of those shepherd boys suddenly spoke up and said to you, “Let’s play I Spy!”
“Alright,” you respond, “you go first.”
Maybe he starts with “something hairy” or “something twinkling”; pretty obvious clues. Then he struggles to guess Joseph’s staff from “something curved”. A simple game. But a few rounds in, he comes up with a real stumper.
“I spy, with my little eye, God.”
That’s a hard one, isn’t it? Who can see God? How does that work?
Now, you probably know what I’m getting at here. I’m sure you could get the answer right. But there’s more to it than just acknowledging Him. We are asked to find, in this little infant, the face of a God so magnificent that man cannot see him and live.
It’s hard to get around the fact that Jesus, a little baby in a trough, doesn’t look like God. Some parts of the scene are pretty good indications of divinity—kings are bringing gifts and worshipping, the rich and the poor led here by miraculous signs—but it’s still a human scene: a poor couple and a newborn in the night.
You’ll grant, I assume, that Jesus is the greatest gift of all. But if that is really to mean anything to us—beyond something you saw on Veggie Tales—we need another gift. And you don’t even have to write Santa to ask for it. The gift of faith is given to us in Baptism. God starts to pour it into our souls; this makes it possible for us to know him. This makes it possible to find the true meaning of Christmas.
If you come around to Christmas each year, and you feel like you don’t really get it—if you feel like you’re missing something when you look at the little crib next to the altar at church—there’s a good reason for that. God is invisible. But if you make yourself like that little shepherd boy you were just playing I Spy with, and if you ask the Father to strengthen your faith, he will do it. You will discover a new joy: you’ll start to unwrap the greatest gift of all. And you will spy, with your little eye, how Christmas has changed everything for you.
Image: Pethrus, Adoration des bergers (detail) – CC BY-SA 3.0