“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Christmas Day has finally arrived. All of the suspense, all of the waiting, all of the wishing is over. The Messiah has come to rule this world. Joy to the World!
Think about what that very first Christmas Day in Bethlehem must have been like. Yes, I know that from a church history point of view we know that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but let’s just suspend those notions for a minute. Think about the young Mary and her new husband, Joseph. Barely married they are straddled with an incredible amount of responsibility.
Imagine Mary – a first time mother and to the Son of God no less. She now has the responsibility of raising this God Man. She will see God incarnate crawl and then take His first stumbling steps. She will see God cry in the middle of the night and have to comfort Him. Every night she will tuck God into bed.
It’s incredible when we think about the fact that God – the Almighty and strongest being who existed chose to humble Himself by becoming fully human. He chose to become nothing for us! If Jesus lived in our society today He would be just like any other kid that we know. He would likely have gone to a public elementary school, maybe would have taken piano lessons, maybe would have learned to skate and play hockey. He would probably have friends and go to their birthday parties. Perhaps there would also be a few bullies who He would come into contact with.
Last night, I was at my church’s Christmas Eve service. Our associate pastor’s daughter, only about 7 years old, played the hymn “Away in a Manger” beautifully on the piano. How fitting, I thought. We are allowing a child to lead us into worshiping the Christ child. If Christ lived in our culture today, perhaps He would be in that same position. Perhaps we would see His tiny fingers tickling the ivories.
I’m in awe of the fact that Christ took on our flesh, our pain, and our problems in order to save us from ourselves and offer us a future filled with hope and peace. That is incredible news, but it doesn’t stop there! Not by a long shot. No, the Son of God grew up and He taught, He healed, and He forgave those whom society thought to be unforgiveable. Without the birth of Christ we would not have had His passion. Even after His death and resurrection He didn’t stop giving. He is the gift that keeps on giving. Of Himself and of His Father.
Jesus is both the Gentle Romancer and the Relentless Pursuer. These are two images of the Christ that I have been exploring in my own life over the past several months. He is the Relentless Pursuer. He does not give up on us – no matter what. When we stray far away from Him, He keeps knocking on the door of our hearts. Even if we turn our back completely to Him and say that we don’t believe in Him, He is still our Father. He is always waiting for us to come back – He keeps His arms outstretched. He woos us back. He keeps calling out to us. He never leaves us alone. He never abandons us.
He is also the Gentle Romancer. He does not force His love upon us. He is not rough in His embraces. But rather, like the enchanted Lover, He is persistent. He continues to love us even when we do not reciprocate that love. When a man and woman are truly in love it is a beautiful sight. We all marvel at the love a couple has when together they share their vows before God to remain faithful to each other for life. We see the glint in their eyes and the expectations in their voices as they plan their future together. That’s just a glimpse of Christ’s love for us. He promises Himself over and over to us again. Even when we are unfaithful to Him, He is quick to forgive. He is quick to welcome us back. He never gets tired of pursuing us. He never gets tired of romancing us.
This Christmas, Christ wants to give you the greatest gift of all.
He does not wish you an easy life with no loss. For Christ knows that until His second coming, sorrow will not be abolished. But He offers us JOY. Joy everlasting. A joy too deep for words. A joy which fills us with mystery and awe.
He does not wish you a life free of conflict. For Christ knows that until His second coming wars will continue to ravish our earth. It deeply pains Him to see His creation being destroyed in this way, but He knows it is a result of sin. Instead He offers us PEACE. Eternal peace which sustains us even when there is pain and grief. Peace which brings Heavenly comfort. Peace which believes that one day we will see an end to all warfare and which works to make this peace happen on our earth.
He does not wish for you to never experience hardships. For Christ knows that life is difficult. He went through everything that we experience and so much more during His 33 years of life on this earth. Instead, He offers us HOPE. Hope to believe in the unbelievable. Hope that continues to trust even when all others believe that trust to be broken.
He does not wish you a life devoid of questions or confusions. For Christ can often be found in the rumblings and musings of the heart. Instead, He offers us belief and trust even when there is doubt and despair. He offers us FAITH. As Brennan Manning wrote in the Ragamuffin Gospel, “If a random sampling of one thousand American Christians were taken today, the majority would define faith as belief in the existence of God. In earlier times it did not take faith to believe that God existed – almost everybody took that for granted. Rather faith had to do with one’s relationship to God – whether one trusted in God. The difference between faith as ‘Belief in something that may or may not exist’ and faith as ‘trusting in God’ is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart. The first can leave us unchanged. The second intrinsically brings change.”
He does not wish you a life without difficulty and burdens. For He knows that as long as you live in this world, there will be some people you don’t get along with. Jesus says, “Just remember – if they don’t like you, you’re doing something right. They didn’t like me either!” Instead, He offers us LOVE. Love for the unloveable. Love for our enemies. Love for those who hate and persecute us.
As Brennan Manning writes in the Regamuffin Gospel, “How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the anti-abortion stick on the bumper of my car.
We are not pro-life simply because we are warding off death. We are pro-life to the extent that we are men and women for others, all others, to the extent that no human flesh is a stranger to us; to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love; to the extent that for us there are no ‘others’.”
Thanks be to God this Christmas season. Let’s welcome Christ into this world today in the same way that He continually welcomes each one of us into His Heavenly Kingdom.