I was reminded a few days ago that babies always make Christmas more “Christmasy.” My niece gave birth to a beautiful little girl a few months ago, and they came over for a visit.
I had just gotten all my decorations out, including a host of singing carolers, snowmen, and reindeer. The stage was set. But it wasn’t until Lynnea arrived, looking at everything with “new” eyes and filling the house with her delighted coos and giggles, that it all came to life.
As Faith Hill’s Christmas song says, “A baby changes everything!”
But, apart from my sister’s family, the Dunkers are running low on babies this year. My youngest granddaughter, Addison, is now 7 and would be the first to say that she is no longer a “baby.” She’s right! Every time I see her she seems taller and is showing new signs of the beautiful woman she will one day become.
When I pray for her, as I do all my children and grandchildren, I claim God’s blessings and protection over her. I want to see her grow up to be a happy, confident, generous, and loving person. But even more than that, I want her to fulfill God’s special destiny for her life — whatever that may be.
And there, I fear, is the rub.
I have prayed that prayer over all my children as they slept, looking at their perfect little faces and wondering what they will grow up to be. How will God use them? What difference will their lives make in this hurting and desperate world? And if they choose to truly make a difference, what will it cost them?
Another young mother named Mary held her baby just as I held mine, delighting in her Son’s perfect little face and picturing the man he would grow up to be. She already had an idea of the difference his life would make. The angel had made that clear.
You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Contained within that amazing prophecy was a whole world of possible miracles and pain that would see her Son heal the sick, give sight to the blind, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. He would teach his followers about a heavenly Father who knew them so intimately that he knew the number of hairs on their heads and about a kingdom of righteousness and love that would redefine the very purpose of life.
But it would also demand that he give his life on the cross and that Mary experience the pain of losing the Son she loved so much.
Perhaps it is all the tragic news during recent months that has made me think twice about the prayers of dedication I have so freely prayed over my children — and over my own life, for that matter. There is no doubt that anyone choosing to stand for Christ will face great opposition — possibly even death — in this increasingly godless and hostile world. And at times I feel my enthusiasm to see God move my children to the frontlines of battle waiver. After all, we all want to keep our children safe.
But then I think about all the innocent people who are suffering in this world, like the precious baby in this picture. I do not know his name, but I know his story. He was born in a tent, not a stable, and his mother was a happily married woman, not a virgin.
Every day he is bathed in a large bowl with water World Vision has provided and diapered with a diaper that came in a World Vision care package. His future is uncertain because his parents are among the thousands of innocent Syrians forced to flee from their homes, and now they live in a massive refugee camp with little hope of returning home. This boy did nothing to invite or deserve this difficulty. As hard as his parents tried to keep him safe, somehow difficulty still found him.
Seeing that little boy full of joy even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy helped me to realize that the highest aspiration I can have for my children is not to keep them safe, but to put them in the palm of God’s hand. He has a plan for their lives that is for good, not evil. And if they will put their trust in Him, He will use them to bring deliverance to the captives, healing to the sick, and eternal salvation — all because of the sacrifice of Mary’s baby boy.
Oswald Chambers is quoted as saying, “The death of Jesus Christ is the performance in history of the very mind of God. There is no room for looking on Jesus as a martyr; His death was not something that happened to Him which could have been prevented: His death was the very reason He came.”
When you see a nativity or hear “Away in a Manger” this Christmas season, I pray you will be reminded of two truths: the great love God chose to give when he sent his Son to be born to a virgin, and the great sacrifice Jesus chose to make when he went to the cross. This baby truly did change everything!
Marilee Pierce Dunker travels the world as an ambassador for World Vision, the organization her father, Bob Pierce, founded in 1950. Like he did, she shares stories, pictures, and personal reflections, bearing witness to the extraordinary ways God is using his people to share the gospel and care for the poor.
Visit World Vision’s Speakers Bureau site to request Marilee or another World Vision speaker to present at your upcoming event.