He smelled like alcohol. He stammered out his name (Reginald, I think) and announced “I’m here for Jesus. I’m here for Jesus”.
“That’s why we are here, too”, I said. PTM was sponsoring a live nativity scene as a gift to the community. We placed the manger scene on a vacant lot next to a busy intersection with our Calvin House students dressed as the “holy family” from the first nativity. To the side we had a table with hot chocolate and hot wings (just like they had in Bethlehem). We also had a path lined with luminaries and Christmas music playing. Our hope was that those driving by and those loitering at a nearby corner store would be reminded of one of the forgotten images of Christ—the baby in a manger who came to be our King.
Reginald recognized the sacredness (at least partially) of the moment. “I’m here for Jesus. I love Jesus. I’m just here for Jesus…but I’ll take some hot wings.” After a couple of rounds of hot wings, Reginald went over to the “stable” and with surprised shepherds as his audience, he picked up the baby Jesus, placed a dollar bill in the manger and placed the baby Jesus back down.
I have thought through why he wanted the dollar to go to a plastic baby doll representing Jesus. Maybe it was all he had and in a gesture of genuine faith, he placed everything (similar to the story of the widow’s mite) as a symbol of his whole-hearted devotion. Maybe he was hedging his bets thinking, “since I am getting these free hot wings and I’m clearly not in my right mind and not really living for the Lord, I will “throw the Lord a bone”.” Maybe he looked at the baby Jesus superstitiously—like a rabbit’s foot or a good luck charm. Maybe he was hoping that his “investment” in “faith” might produce good fortune for him down the road. Probably there is another reason not obvious to me, but I am thankful for the question raised by Reginald: how do I approach Jesus?
I would like to think that in the presence of Jesus I am communicating, “I give you my entire life and will follow you with whole-hearted abandon.” But I am afraid too often my approach falls in the categories of superstition, “bet-hedging”, and “investments in future blessings”. Thankfully, God is faithful, patient and merciful. My personal prayer for 2013 is that I will be “all in” as a Christ follower and that God will continue to create wonderful opportunities for students at PTM to wrestle with and respond to God’s invitation (and command) to approach him with radical abandon.