The wonder of Christmas in the Convention lobby
Dec 25, 2013
By BARBARA DENMAN
Florida Baptist Convention

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JACKSONVILLE (FLBaptist)—The small children hovered over the ceramic manger scene in the lobby of the Baptist Building, gently touching each figure, asking, “who is this?”

“It’s Mary,” the girl exclaimed to the others, echoing the receptionist’s response, her voice filled with wonder and delight. 

“Is this a dog?” the littlest one about four years of age questioned, pointing to a sheep. “No,” said the receptionist, explaining that the sheep came with the shepherd to see Baby Jesus when he was born.

“I know a song about the wise men,” one offered, and began singing, “A wise man builds his house upon a rock….”

The four of them, three boys and a girl, come to the Baptist Building about once a month to pick up a bag lunch provided to Jacksonville’s homeless community through hunger funds given by Florida Baptists. 

Each month the Florida Baptist Convention staff gives away more than 1,500 bag lunches to homeless persons, men and women of all ages and races, and families who are lacking resources. Other Jacksonville agencies help, so the homeless make their rounds within the city. At the Convention, each person can receive a bag a week so more can be served with the limited hunger funds. 

They come in droves, especially on Mondays and Tuesday after a weekend with little access to food—for a bag lunch that includes a can of peaches, Vienna sausages, crackers and juice. Many of them use the rest rooms or make calls from the Convention’s lobby phone about jobs and families.

On occasion, the homeless mingle with pastors from across the state, denominational leaders and businessmen who come to the Baptist Building to meet with the Convention staff and attend Convention-sponsored meetings. Some have serious needs and ask to speak to a minister, or someone to confide in. Several have been able to get off the streets by finding work and will return to the Baptist Building to express gratitude for the kindness extended to them by the Convention employees. A few have been reunited with families who thought them dead. 

This little family that came in that day ranged in stair-step ages from seven to four, the boys without shirts because unusual December-in-Florida temperatures had soared into the 80s. They say they live in their car and usually are accompanied by their father and mother. But at this moment, the father remained outside on the phone while the mother used the rest room facilities. 

Unattended for more than ten minutes, the youngsters stood mesmerized by the nativity figures and their roles in the Christmas story, never once picking up a piece. 

At one point, a secretary directed the children to a second nativity scene across the lobby, with figures that had similar complexions as the youngsters’. Perhaps in such a simple way, they could understand the gospel is for all persons.  

Taking in the new nativity, the older boy exclaimed, “Look, that’s Jesus, the Son of God.”

It was a holy moment for all in the Baptist Building lobby—the mundane and routine of life suddenly overwhelmed by a priceless Biblical truth spoken from the mouth of a child. Obviously, the simplicity of a nativity can preach the Gospel to a child with listening ears.

 

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