New Year Address

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One of the first things I do, when decorating my home for Christmas, is put out the nativity set. Last week as I began unwrapping the china figures it came to me that this small tableau is rich in mission symbolism. A gift to our family one Christmas many years ago, the beautifully molded and painted figures represent well the varied diversity of our world—the rich kings and the poor shepherds, the young Mary and older Joseph, a heavily loaded camel and a lamb resting on the shepherd boy’s shoulders.

The robes and features of the three wise men reflect the Christian tradition of an African Balthazar, Asian Gaspar, and European Melchior. Balthazar’s gift is in a golden corked ivory tusk. Joseph carries a wooden staff. Yet each face is intently focused in the same direction—at the little china baby lying on Mary’s lap. They have come from far and near, with rich gifts and no gifts, to gather in worship around a baby born in a barn.

When you think about it, it really is an unlikely story. Who would do such a thing? What compelled them to come? What did they expect to see? As they looked at the baby, did they know they were looking at the Creator of the universe, the Answer for every need, the Hope for every tomorrow? Today we are sent out to ask the rich and the poor, the young and the old, people of every culture and background to join us in worshipping the Baby born so many years ago.

We take our families to live as aliens in strange lands because of our love for the Baby who came from heaven to live among us. We willingly face misunderstandings and unappreciated toil among foreigners because of His life and death. When we do not see the whole picture, when we are journeying in faith, when resurrection life seems far off, our differences and difficulties fade when we, too, gather around the Baby.

As you begin a new year, may the hope, joy, and love of the Christmas Baby fill your heart with energy and purpose and with a renewed commitment to remain focused on Him throughout the coming year.

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