My Daddy LOVED cherry cordials. Each year at least one of us children would buy some and take over. Some years when I was growing up that was his wrapped gift under the tree from us. A box of cherry cordials. And he acted as though it was the greatest gift ever.
Cherry cordials are not what you expect just looking at them. A blob of chocolate, is what someone who’s never encountered them before might think. But once you take a bite of it, the creamy center oozes out and there’s that cherry floating along with it. Mmmmm. Delicious. And so says Christmas to me.
Jesus is much like cherry cordials, I think. I heard a song on the radio last night—an obscure country carol, in which the wise men asked a man walking along the road if he’d seen a baby. The man replied, “Yes, there’s a baby laying in a manger just up a little ways, but he’s a kid like any other, I reckon.” Yes, Jesus did look just like any other. He came to us as a baby, just like everyone else. But if we stop and “taste” and see what Jesus is about, what a precious treasure we find. What a beautiful way to love he showed us!
Sometimes when we would share in the bounty of Daddy’s cherry cordials, we wouldn’t find what we expected. Sometimes the inside was clear syrup rather than creamy. And very rarely, but it did happen, we would find a pit in one of the cherries. And it’s that way with Jesus, I think. What a beautiful picture the nativity makes! I love riding around town seeing the different nativities set out, all lit up, and they are all beautiful. Ethereal. Glorifying. Adoring. I have wanted one for my own yard. But what would it look like, if in the center of the nativity, instead of a sweet, precious baby, there was a man dressed in rags huddled there. Or a woman with unkempt hair and no teeth. Or a child shivering and hungry. Confusing? Upsetting? It would certainly be unexpected. And downright unpleasant too, maybe? But Jesus said that he was those people too. He’s the broken, the hurt, the grieving, the hungry, the thirsty. He is that person too.
And as we rush towards the day of celebrating his birth, that precious baby Jesus, let us be like the story of the Fourth Wise Man, who got separated from his caravan, and who so badly wanted to see the new baby King. As he followed the star guiding him along, he saw many people in need. And he stopped and helped, making himself interruptible for them, but in the end he was making himself interruptible for God. For in the end, he still reached his destination, and he was all the richer and blessed for having made those detours. It is perhaps only a story, but the message is clear.
My nephew Nate thinks that the lyrics to the Christmas carol “Deck the Halls” is “Taste the Season to be Jolly…..” I love that. I think that is actually more apropos than the real lyric. If we stop and taste along the journey to the manger, it may not be what we expected, there will definitely be a pit or two, but it will be precious. Each of us has the power, as described by Thom Shuman, “to help change the life of another person, by our compassion, by our generosity, by our forgiveness, by our love.” And may God make us as eager to embrace those in need as we are to embrace sweet baby Jesus at the manger. Because, if we slow down and have our eyes open, we will see Jesus along the way. And just like cherry cordials, that is the greatest Christmas gift ever.