Every Christmas for me feels different. The way I relate to the birth of the Christ-child is wholly dependent on my personal circumstances, where I find myself at in my Bible, how prepared I am for the actual day of Christmas…
Last year my dog died early in December. I was still adjusting to the reality of being a foster mom to a teenage boy. It was a Christmas full of longing for the stability of the Second Coming of Christ. I was depressed and advent which is supposed to be equal parts joy and longing was swinging hard towards the longing end of the pendulum arc and void of a lot of joy.
This year it totally different. I’m not depressed. I am stable feeling and the longing is there, but I am swinging more towards the joy side of advent. More than anything I feel equipped by the birth of our Savior.
Let me explain.
Before Jesus came, It had been 400 years, four centuries, nearly half millennia, since God had spoken a single word to the Israelite people. Roughly 15 generations of people had been born and died without hearing a new utterance from God.
Our Bibles refers to this as the intertestimental period. Inter- means between and testimental would refer to the new and old testament, so it literally means the time between the two testaments.
Before this God spoke through a few select individuals known as prophets, and a few select miracles scattered throughout. Generally, the Israelite people related to God in a far off kind of way. Sacrificing lambs and doves to atone for their sins. Entering the Holy of Holies once a year. Waiting for God to make himself known in entirely inhuman ways.
The sky cracked, deliverance came, and the 400 years of silence was broken, and how do you think the God of the Universe chose to do so? A prophet? A miracle? A badass on a stallion overthrowing the Roman occupation?
No… A tiny, helpless babe named Jesus, who rode to Bethlehem in his teenage mama’s belly, on the back of a donkey, being born in a stable, making his very first bed in a manger.
Get out of here God of the Universe. You cray.
But really. After all those years of silence, after a whole entire written history of God doing insanely amazing things, after the hype of a new deliverance the likes of which the world had never seen, He chose to make his presence manifest on earth in quite possibly the most unassuming way known to man. Almost every woman in this day and age had babies. If you were a poor traveler like Mary and Joseph were, you might end up sleeping in a barn. This is just the way things were. Even when God drew attention to his presence on the actual earth in actual human form who did he tell? Not the press, not the rich rulers of the day. He told some stinking shepherds who were on the bottom of the social totem pole, the guys who had no other job prospects or hope for their future.
What does this mean for me? Endless things. But what is God showing me here and now at this advent?
First, that when we are confused about what love is, we look to the babe in the manger, who grew to be a man who gave his life for us all. Jesus is the deliverance God wrote about over and over again in the Bible, the pinnacle of His love for humanity. That means that perfect love is unassuming. It’s not flashy. It’s counterintuitive. When the Israelites were expecting a King, they were given a normal, ordinary guy who served as a sacrificial lamb, whose death freed us all. Where the world expects a safe, mild Savior who is fine with our incessant wealth accumulation, we are given a table-flipper who hangs out with prostitutes who is dirt poor and without a place to even lay his head at night.
This means that love is also confusing, and it’s never cut and dry. It means different things in different circumstances, but it’s always what God requires of us, because it’s always what He brings us. And it’s what He brought us to earth that Christmas day 2016 years ago, in the form of a human baby, perfect in love throughout the whole of his life.
It also means that if God’s delivery method for deliverance was so unassuming, then wouldn’t it still be?
One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 Corinthians 1:27. In it, Paul is reminding the Corinthian church of this truth, where “the foolish things of earth confound the wise.” At such a verse who among us doesn’t feel a flutter of holy excitement. “Even me Lord?” we pray, knowing somewhere deep down that though we are weak and under qualified by human standards we are just the foolish person He’s been looking for to join in this deliverance-work He’s doing.
And to me He whispers, “Yes, Blaire. Though you don’t have a college degree, though I keep asking things that make no earthly sense, though you are self-taught, and a woman, and lacking material wealth, though you have piercings and purple hair, and though you are full of sin you can’t shake off. Even you, my love.”
This Christmas God won’t stop drawing these lines back to that day that split time in two, reminding me how unworthy the people of his day viewed Jesus Christ. He tells me over and over that Jesus, lowly and humble, was the very definition of Worthy. He says to me, as I wrap the presents and decorate the tree, that this year what I celebrate is this very humility and a grace so big that God desires people like me and people like you to take part in His story that spans time and space.
Yes… Even we have been made Worthy.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7