Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 1:1-18 (NIV)
The last of the decorations are in the closet. The hardest part of taking down Christmas is storing my many nativity scenes. I have a wooden set carved from an olive wood tree that I bought in Jerusalem. The carver took such care to make each piece special. I love the way the folds of Mary’s shawl ripple down her back. Joseph has such a stunned look on his face. You can see the same one on any new father outside the nursery at the hospital. Awe, fear, love, wonder all hewn into that tiny brown face. The cow is one of my favorite pieces. So real, she looks as though she could get up and walk away. I do not worry quite as much about the safety of the wooden set although the glue did give way in the stable one year and I had to piece it together. It is with my large porcelain set that I take the greatest care. This scene was purchased from Sams and while not valuable, it is still special. The figures are large, almost a foot high and yet, delicate. In addition to the main characters, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, a shepherd and the wisemen, there are numerous barnyard animals, a well, a fire pit, pots, bushes and other accessories. I love arranging them each year. When it comes time to put them away, it is hard to find a sturdy container large enough to hold the barn and all the pieces. I must take care to wrap each one so that they do not bang against each other while in storage all year long. I always hesitate before I wrap up Baby Jesus. In this set, he is separate from his manger so, it is almost like swaddling a tiny baby as I prepare him for the long wait until next Christmas. I usually try to place him in the box near his mother. I know he is not real, but it just seems fitting. As we prepare to enter a new year, I wonder if you have thought about what you will do with Jesus. Where would you place Him? The man who asks the questions here was like many of us. He recognized that Jesus was a good man, a teacher, and even goes so far as to say He was sent from God. He knew the law, that all have sinned and are worthy of Hell, but, he could not comprehend that Jesus was God or that Jesus would die to save him from death. In this story, he appears to remain confused, but we know from later in the Bible that Nicodemus was one of the ones who remained with Christ through the crucifixion. Eventually, his questions were answered, and He chose to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. That is what I hope for you as well. That you will also believe and that you will chose to place Jesus in your heart where He belongs.