Every town and city has something that caters to the tourist. In my little hometown of Eatonton, GA, you can take a brief (and I mean brief) tour of the Uncle Remus Museum and purchase some sweet, Brer Rabbit swag. Right here in Augusta for one special week thousands upon thousands gobble up anything marked by “The Masters Tournament.” Recently I was in the city of San Antonio for a small conference. During a break I walked down to the Alamo to do some site seeing as well as look for trinkets to bring back home. In one shop filled with gaudy and goofy souvenirs there was a display of nativity sets, with the following sign:
Don’t take baby Jesus
Please, it is a set. Thank You
Apparently pilfering baby Jesus is a problem near the Alamo. Thinking about this some more, there is a deeper truth than just defending a shopkeeper’s merchandise. If you take Jesus, you have to take everyone that comes with Jesus.
In a culture we are used to customizing nearly all things towards our personal taste and nearly everything can be reduced to a commodity. Jesus, however, comes as is and along with Jesus comes a family of people that many would rather leave out. Reading the Gospels Jesus brought along Samaritans and Canaanites who were ethnically and religiously on the “wrong side of the tracks.” He associated with despised tax collectors, prostitutes, and other unsavory characters. Jesus reached across the cultural divide and gave women hope, the diseased healing, and the neglected life. Because of this Jesus offended those who wanted to leave all these others out of the family of God. If you take Jesus, you have to take everyone that comes with Jesus.
I did not buy the nativity set because, well, I do not need another one. I do wish, however, the sign was for sale. It would make for a nice banner across the pulpit and above the doors of the church to remind everyone that if you take Jesus, you have to take everyone that comes with him. Yes, it will inevitably offend. It will also eternally bless, and that is a gift that cannot be bought in any shop or store.
There is no need to make a banner or wear a t-shirt, button or hat with this sign. What you and I can do is take the message into this waiting world to those who want so badly to belong.
I am grateful that somewhere along the way someone invited me in to the family surrounding Jesus where I knew I belonged with all the other characters.
Grateful to share space with you,