This morning I noticed my little guy was getting a bit bored with his toys, and since I wanted to get some laundry done in the basement anyway, I decided to lure him down with the promise of bringing out an old toy he hasn’t seen in a while. I figure once we’re halfway through November, it’s acceptable to begin sprinkling a little Christmas through our home, so I pulled out his Fisher Price Little People nativity. He was only two last Christmas and needed a refresher about the story, so we acted it out there on the basement floor, with the angel flying over to the shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth, and his favorite part- the shepherds jumping up and down yelling “Hooray! Jesus is born!” (much like he did when his baby sister was born 🙂 ).

But the shepherds didn’t know where Jesus was. They wanted to see him! How would they be able to find him?

The star.

Cue the angel, who flies over to Bethlehem and perches herself on top of the plastic creche, pushing the button that plays “Away in a Manger” and turns on the little light that makes the star shine brightly above the Fisher Price baby Jesus.

I’ve never thought too much about that star before. But as I sat there on the basement floor with my little boy, I saw it in a new light. I saw us in a new light.

“What’s the star for, mama?” he asked.
“It’s to show the people where to find Jesus.” I said.

And then what came to my mind was the Bible verse he and I have been talking about a lot as we fumble through these days together, often grumbling and being cranky and generally acting like a 3-year-old, and the other one of us actually being a 3-year-old…

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the Word of Life.”
-Philippians 2:14-15

My son and I love stars. His room is covered with stars. He stares up at a painted ceiling full of them each night. His night light is a jar full of little white Christmas lights. We get excited when we spot real stars in the night sky that the city lights haven’t drowned out. We talk about how the stars shine for God, and that we’d like to shine for him too, so we were excited to come across this verse that tells us how: Do everything without complaining or arguing.

Yeah, try teaching that to a 3 year old. Or his mom. Our house is full of some of the typical banter, whining, and debates that come with this age. “But I don’t want…!” is a phrase Ben and I are determinedly trying to erase from his vocabulary and it’s a daily battle. Yet the complaints that pour forth from this tired mom when her husband comes home or she chats with a friend probably sound very similar. But there on the basement floor with the Fisher Price nativity, I understood.

Why does the star shine?
To point the way to Jesus.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
    their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
    and their words to all the world.
-Psalm 19:1-4

Whether I am aware of it or not, my life and my words are always making a declaration about God. When I complain about my life, I am telling people that God isn’t really all that good, that he can’t really be trusted, not completely. That he’s only good if he gives me every tiny thing I want, when I want it. When I accept my circumstances, frustrations included, with joy and perseverance, I’m telling people what I really do believe to be true: “God is good, through and through! He can be trusted, completely.”

I’m pointing them to the real Jesus. The Word made flesh. The source of Life. Love come down. Emmanuel- God with us.

Life is hard sometimes. Frustrations are real. Feelings are natural and legitimate. And we’re meant to be vulnerable with God and each other, meant to share our hearts and bear each other’s burdens (Please don’t miss that part!). But my son and I both know there’s a big difference between when he shouts “I don’t WANT to put on my coat!” and when he says, “This is hard, mom. Will you help me?” If a child has a good parent who loves him and does everything possible for his good, then it comes down to the child’s choice, a change in perspective that turns the whole thing around. He can choose to say “I hate you, mom!” and think, “How could she make me do this when I know she could fix it for me and I wouldn’t have to go through this? She must not really love me.” Or he could say “Thanks for helping me mom.” And know that he is loved.

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” -Daniel 12:3

My son, like most of us, ends up choosing a mix of these perspectives each day as he grows and learns. But today this sweet little boy of mine, as I tried to explain to him how crazy and unexpected and sort of sad it was that the Son of God would be born in a barn, he couldn’t quite catch my drift because he was too busy shouting gleefully to his sister about all the cool things they had in that barn. “And there’s HAY! And a little BOX! And sheep! And and angel! And a star! Perspective changes everything, doesn’t it? This kid was taking it all in with gratitude, despite the imperfections in the situation. He was shining.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
-Isaiah 60:1-3

May we be people that shine bright reflecting to the world the true nature of our God,  the God who loved us to the ends of the earth and back. When the going gets rough, let us be children who say, “This is hard, God. Will you help me?” And he will, and then we’ll have even more of his goodness to tell people about, people who are wandering around in the dark night without a clear vision of what he is really like.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” -Psalm 136:1

He is good.

“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak,  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

-2 Corinthians 4:5-18