As I was praying this morning, I thought about Christmas and what it means. I tried to picture what Jesus came to do for me personally and an event came to my mind again; one I’ve reflected upon often over the years.
Twenty-three years ago this month, our youngest son Josh was born. In light of the fact that he was a December baby, he was a perfect fit to play Jesus in the Christmas program at our church. He played his part well; he even cried on cue (when they pinched him!) He looked so precious and innocent in that Christmas play; and at that time – he was.
Ten months later – still innocent and precious to us – he was burned in a tragic accident while Janet and I were away from him. Most of the skin was burned off the top and sides of both feet. It was one of the worst times of our lives. Neither Janet or I will ever forget the puzzled and painful look on his face as we tried to comfort him. The hospital we were in took great care of him, but he screamed every time he saw a white coat (because that meant another shot and his little thighs were already like pin-cushions).
We discovered that the doctors would have to debride the dead & burned skin before they could graft healthy skin to his feet. This meant that Janet and I would have to hold his feet in a hydrotherapy whirlpool and then hold him again while the doctors scrubbed and removed the dead skin from his feet. It was horrible! This went on until he was ready for his first surgery.
Janet had just started to wean him, but the doc said: “Don’t stop nursing him now; he needs all the fluids he can get.” The night before the first surgery, we hoped and prayed he’d nurse right before midnight and then sleep through the night. He nursed, but only slept a couple hours and then he wanted his mama. She laid on a couch and prayed and cried; I held him in a recliner in the room as he screamed, cried and wiggled the rest of the night. He’d wear himself out – fall asleep for a few minutes – then wake back up and start all over again.
In those moments when he’d fall asleep, I’d pray. I remember being angry and upset. I couldn’t believe that my innocent son had to suffer for something he didn’t do. I was worn out, frustrated and angry at God. I even begged God that night to let me have Josh’s pain; to let me suffer in his place, but it didn’t happen.
However, in one of those quiet moments of frustration God spoke to my heart and taught me more about His love than I’d ever understood before. He reminded me that He was a father too and He understood my emotions. He reminded me that He had a Son who was far more innocent than mine and that His Son went through much more suffering than what Josh was experiencing with burned feet. His Son was betrayed, abused, beaten, spit upon, and suffered the extreme agony of a crucifixion. And then God got my attention with this zinger: He reminded me that He could have stopped all that was happening to His Son at any moment, but He didn’t because of His love for me. He allowed His only Son Jesus to endure all this agony because He loved me and wanted me to experience freedom from sin & death and ultimately to spend eternity with Him & His family in heaven.
It literally blew me away as I pondered this in those moments in the hospital. It may have been the first time I REALLY understood the enormous price paid for my forgiveness and salvation. That night, I began to grasp with new clarity the unfathomable love of God for me. Jesus death demonstrated God’s passion for me. I was humbled and grateful. Yes, I was still tired and hurting for my son Josh, but my attitude changed that night because with every little thing we experienced I remembered the great thing God did for me out of His love.
Why write about this now? Because it sums up the purpose of Christmas. Some of us will take time to celebrate the birth of Jesus during this season; some will push Jesus to the back while all the stuff gets pushed to the front. I hope that you’ll remember the significance of the birth of our Savior; because the baby born in Bethlehem is the Christ who grew up and died for you and me. His name literally means “God saves”. I hope you reflect on the enormous scope of His love for you this Christmas and take the time to share that with family and friends.