Friday, December 24, 2004

God Came Near

Reading a passage out of one of my favorite Christmas books... that isn't really about Christmas. It's the first chapter of God Came Near by Max Lucado. I dig this out every Christmas Eve to remind me of the humble way humankind was redeemed.

God had entered the world as a baby.

Yet, were someone to chance upon the sheep stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem that morning, what a peculiar scene they would behold.

The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scurries across the dirt floor.

A more lowly place of birth could not exist.

Off to one side sit a group of sheperds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion fo light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him- so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.

Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can't remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn't figured it all out. The mystery of the event puzzles him. But he hasn't the energy to wrestle with the questions. What's important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes he remembers the name the angel told him to use...Jesus. "We will call him Jesus."

Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph's saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can't take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel. "His kingdom will never end."

He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely depenedent upon Mary for his well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and int he presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered sheperds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty's arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren't looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

My thougths on this....

Humankind had fallen. All had at least one sin against them - their very own nature. The stench of human sins surpasses that of the stable. God, in his divine plan, chose love. He chose to provide means to be restored. Love - the reason for all we ever crave, all we need, and what we were designed to thrive on... love was at stake. Christ, the redeeming one, so desperately wanted to spend eternity with me, you, and all the rest of creation, that he was willing to leave his perfect home and suffer hell. His motivation - love. No reason why he'd chose to do such a crazy thing - but love isn't always rational. He chose love over all, and paid a price I couldn't. In the moment of his crucifiction, the eternal Father turned his back to his son, counted him as a sacrifice. God, who had been with Christ - the son, would not communicate, love, or be in his presence. Christ, sent to the depths of hell to redeem a sinful creature, endured more than all others. For us, we need only to call upon God - the trinity - and we are accepted. At that moment there was an eternal divide for Christ that could only be restored by conquering death. Christ defeated all, and for that, we are lavishly showered in His great love. Yet - just as the people of Bethlehem overlooked a great coming, so to we overlook what is there for us. We are busy in all the other things of life, and try to replace our longings with anything but a restored relationship with Christ. Uncomfortable with embracing the intangible, we seek any other human, any other belief, or an existence filled with nothing. Pause for some awkward length of time and ponder the humble arrival of the redeeming king of love, and what this has done to and for you.


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