Five years ago my family discussed the nativity story on Christmas Eve, as is our custom. As we sang “Away in a Manger”, our oldest, 2 at the time, picked up the baby Jesus from a plastic nativity set and cradled it. She then walked to each person in the room and extended the figure for their appreciation. Needless to say, my wife and I were deeply touched. Our daughter’s invitation to everyone that night is the same that Christ himself extends to each one of us.
When teaching in Palestine, Jesus would say things that didn’t seem to go together. For example:
…ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.1
…my yoke is easy, and my burden light.2
… Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. … If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you … seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.3
… Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.4
In fact, the beatitudes5 are a series of contrasts that directly subvert our expectations. The Savior taught in parables, speaking at truths indirectly. Those who received the clearest teachings were those who had proven their devotion or those who had earned the title of hypocrites. Jesus entices us to learn of Him but He will not force his way in.
… I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him …6
Jesus invites. Those who accept this invitation begin to understand. Jesus is willing to teach us as much as we will accept.
In the early chapters of the Book of Mormon, a young man named Nephi is rewarded for his prayerful petitions with a vision. God’s messenger asks:
Knowest thou the condescension of God?7
… I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.8
Satisfied with Nephi’s answer, the messenger shows him the nativity. The same story my family, and Christians the world over, read tonight. It begins in the second chapter of Luke:
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.9
Jesus is knocking. Jesus is inviting.