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Heart Matters: Seeing Jesus

As we entered the city gates, it was as though we went back in time. The hustle and bustle of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago unfolded in front of our very eyes.

Three-year-old Katelyn was beside herself with excitement as we traveled to the realistic depiction of Bethlehem and waited in the long line to be part of that night. We had no more entered the gate than my daughter asked, "Where is Jesus?" I found myself catching her excitement about seeing Jesus.

"Where is Jesus?" Katelyn asked a basketmaker just inside the gates of the city. The basketmaker told her he'd heard that a king was to be born.

We walked down the narrow street. We passed the tavern and heard boisterous laughter pouring from the open window.

"A king born in a stable!" shouted one man mockingly as loud guffaws followed. Katelyn's eyes got as big as saucers.

"See, Jesus is here somewhere," I said. "But they don't believe it."

"Where is he?" she asked again.

We continued down the street passing by merchants selling cloth, copper, and other items. Then we entered the synagogue where the Pharisees studied scrolls in dim candlelight. Katelyn peered around the room. "Is Jesus here, Mama?"

"Not here, Sweetie," I answered.

As we left the synagogue, we saw women baking bread in a stone oven in the middle of town. They offered us a taste of the warm, sweet bread. I tried to point out the oven, but Katelyn's eyes roamed the area in search of the One she'd come to see.

"I want to see Jesus, Mama."

We saw many people near the inn. As we passed by, the innkeepers sat at the table enjoying a meal.

"Do you have any room?" Katelyn asked them, much to my surprise.

"No we don't," they answered. "Another couple just asked that also. I hope she found a place because she was about to have a baby."

Katelyn's eyes got even larger with a sense of wonder. "Was it Jesus?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," the innkeeper answered. "But they went down the road."

"Mama, we're almost to Jesus!" Katelyn squealed.

Then we approached an area that looked like a cave, and she saw it -- the bright star lit up the sky over the cave.

"Mama, Jesus is there!" she said with great anticipation. As we got closer to the cave, the noisy crowd traveling through Bethlehem grew very quiet. Katelyn moved her head in every direction, straining to see Jesus. Finally the crowd moved along, and we were able to see them. There in the back of the stable, we saw Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.

"I want to go in there and see Jesus," Katelyn whispered. We got as close as we could, and my child grew very quiet as a look of awe came over her face. She could finally see Jesus, but it wasn't enough. She wanted to go right up to him. We stood there and watched Mary and Joseph cuddle the baby boy, wrap him in cloth, and lay him in the manger. As we coaxed Katelyn away, I realized that I had really seen Jesus this Christmas through my child's eyes.

I pray that I'll have Katelyn's excitement and persistence about "seeing" Jesus every day -- not resting until I see him, hear him, and spend time with him. After that night, my family will always see the Nativity through the excited, awestruck eyes of a 3-year-old who reminded us of the special gift God gave us through Jesus' birth.

Lisa Keeling is the associate pastor of children's ministry at a church in Hurst, Texas.

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