For as long as I can remember, the birth of Jesus has always been central to Christmas. My family had a nativity set, and each year we arranged Mary, Joseph, and the animals in the stable. But we would not add baby Jesus until Christmas day. Everybody in my family wanted to be the special one to place baby Jesus at the center of the nativity.
It wasn’t just at Christmas that I waited to put Jesus at the center. Unfortunately, that became a theme in my life.
For many years, there were people around me who told me about the saving love of Jesus Christ. Some were friends, and once it was a pastor sitting next to me on a flight who invited me to accept Jesus right then and there at 30,000 feet in the air! I wasn’t ready. I was doing all right on my own. My career was going great; I was an executive at Procter & Gamble. I had a wonderful family.
But deep inside, I knew it wasn’t enough. A good friend at P&G became my spiritual mentor, and he was the one who invited me to a Promise Keepers conference in Dallas in 2002. When I walked into the stadium filled with 14,000 men, all singing and worshipping God, it was completely unfamiliar — and very uncomfortable. What am I doing here? I wondered.
Then the band played a song I had never heard before. The lyrics said, “Here I am to worship / here I am to bow down / here I am to say that you’re my God.” Tears started rolling down my face. I realized I had never bowed down to anyone. It had always been all about me.
In that powerful moment, I bowed down and began the journey of recommitting my life to Christ. And that changed everything. Since then, my journey has been one of pressing into Jesus more and more.
It transformed how I led my family and lived my daily life. And it caused me to seek opportunities to serve the Lord. That’s what brought me and my wife, Leiza, to World Vision in 2015, leaving a for-profit company to go to a “for-impact” ministry that cares for the poor in the name of Christ.
Now I realize what a miracle it is that someone like me — who, as a kid in Latin America, once experienced hardship — could become the president of this world-changing organization. God was always at work in my life, preparing me.
World Vision’s founder and all the World Vision presidents before me prayed: “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”
That is the prayer of someone pressing into Jesus. We know Jesus loves all people, no matter who we are, and that he has compassion for children and the poor. When we love him, we care about those he loves too.
This Christmas, as you celebrate how much God loved this world — so much that he placed Jesus at the center of human history — it’s the perfect time to ask yourself, “Is Jesus at the center of my life?”