The story – poignant, familiar, mysterious, surprising, predicted, celebrated – is inescapable. Its theme, altered by cultural appropriation – complete with a whole new hero, narrative and music – is pervasive. No matter where we go we are musically accosted by one or the other versions of Christmas cheer. Commerce thrives on the traditions surrounding this holiday and yet there is no denying the kinder happier mood of the strangers around you. The family gets together, the decorations delight, and the food is wonderful.
What prompts this long standing commemoration is the inauspicious entrance of God inserting Himself into the human experience. Considering the multitude of myths and various explanations of the dynamics between humanity and the unseen realm beyond us, the scope and endurance of the nativity narrative is stunning. God sharing His eternal nature with the dust of flesh? Intellectually and philosophically inconceivable! Stooping not only to physical limitation, but subjecting Himself even further to the humiliation of poverty and social insignificance? Unfathomable!! Yet this is what we celebrate and ostensibly believe. According to the recounting of the story, celestial beings were in attendance, foreign astronomers were alerted by recognizing signs broadcast in the natural heavens, and the announcement was made – by those otherworldly beings, no less – to the offscouring of society, the lowly smelly shepherds. Our minds are intrigued and our hearts are touched by such wonder and humility. We want to believe that God is not impressed with spectacular knowledge, accomplishment, or religious correctness, but instead reveals Himself to the needy. We are hopeful that it is true, that we can bring our feeble gift like the iconic little drummer boy and be lovingly welcomed. A king – the king of the entire cosmos – miraculously fathered by the Spirit of God, born to a woman disgraced by pregnancy before marriage, entering life in an animal feed trough, entrusted to poor parents, growing up in a low prestige community – all this is the unlikely narrative that we cherish. We rest our hopes for immortality upon its truth.
Heaven watched Jesus leave the place of privilege, power, and glory to bring God’s message that His errant humans do not have to fear – they are His treasure. This was probably very intriguing to the angelic announcers, since there was no such declaration for their cosmic companions who rebelled. Yet they rejoiced! “Fear not” is an often repeated phrase in Jesus’ ministry, the very first pronouncement upon His arrival. Perhaps this is the attraction that cements our hopes to this unlikely story of divine intervention. He incarnated the message, spoke the message, lived the message, died the message. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This was done for the most part in relative seclusion – ninety-one percent of his short life.
Jesus consented to a journey that was sure to bring Him the opposite of all that He had experienced in heaven. What must it have been like for Him to delight in human form in the sunrise, the sounds of birds, the tinkle of a stream, or seeing His laws of physics facilitate His created realm? What wonder He must have experienced! What profound sadness too as He witnessed the hatred, division, cruelty and fear of those He had created for community!! His willingness to intervene at infinite personal cost so many years ago has redeemed humanity’s destiny for all eternity.
Out of the many facets of beauty in this event, consider for a moment His timing in spreading the remarkable kingdom news. His earthly stay is statistically dominated by His silence. So counterintuitive! What was He doing all those years holding the most significant of messages for mankind? Certainly He was listening. We know He was subject to His parents, so He had to listen to them. The pattern in His public life was to frequently withdraw to the wilderness to engage His Father. In solitude He talked to Him, but just as importantly, He listened. He waited for the Father’s timing, for the Father’s leading, for the Father’s will. From all eternity and the very first breath He took in the manger, it was not His will but the Father’s. He lived out what He called us to.
Another time we can explore the breathtaking scope of the Scripture’s treatment of listening. But for now during this Christmas season, perhaps we can follow our Savior’s lead and in humility and earnest devotion grab moments of solitude with Him – no small task in this frantic time. Let us absorb the beauty of the amazing hymns written to extol His coming, lingering over those pregnant words distilled with eternal truth, allowing them to pierce our soul, treasuring them in our hearts like Mary did. And if we want to get really radical, let’s actively listen to those God puts in our paths. Perhaps they don’t need our perspective as much as they need our attentiveness. In the constant chatter and noise of our society, this might be the best gift we can bring to our hurting community!
Merry Christmas and Lord bless!
Bonus Christmas Music Unto Us by Paul Zach
Wow. Loved it! Sent from the all new AOL app for Android