Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merciful gentleness

If you could describe this world in one word, what would it be?

For me, it would be "broken."

This world is broken and in much need of repair. It struck me today as I was driving, through the dark, that we aren't nearly as all that as we think we are. For some reason we are quite content to scurry around in our messed up world, thinking that we're fine and living a fantastic life. I think though, that one of my favorite singers says it best: "If a life is a comedy, then why all the tragedy?" This is a sad world, people dying all around us, war tearing up places we've never really heard about, families being torn apart by divorce, friends backstabbing each other, people being lonely and taking their lives because of it during the holidays, and I could go on and on. I'm pretty certain that each one of us can say that we've been touched to some extent by this miserable place.

Now, why have I gone on this sad and depressing tangent? (and why am I asking so many questions?)

This is because of something amazing that has happened. Into this sad and dark world, with all its miserableness, something changed. There were angels broadcasting this news to a scared group of shepherds some 2000+ years ago. Very slowly it, not the idea of it, but it, itself, began to take over people, the way they lived, the way they breathed, the way they moved, talked, interacted with other people. This change was life. Not life as we know it, which is merely surviving, but life, life worth living. To many it's a breath of fresh air, to others, a sad number who feel they are comfortable in their own little holes of despair, it's a threat. The reason it's a threat is because part of this new inexhaustible life is living differently than you did when you were in misery and despair. To those who are habit oriented, or convinced they are right, this can be a threat, but to those who truly know that they are in desperate need of life, an amazing intoxicating life, changing how you live is a small price to pay.

2000+ years ago, God, the creator of the universe, the one who spoke and created everything from the tiniest organism and molecule that we have yet to find, to the largest galaxy that is the furthest thing away that we can find in our most powerful telescopes, the one who set time in motion, the one who lives outside time, the one who is, and has been, and has yet to come, and yet is unchanging; God broke into our miserable time and space, the time and space He had once created good, and stepped into our world.

If He had created our world good to begin with, and we had messed it up, how do you think God should have stepped into our world? If it had been me, or any of the human-created gods, such as Zeus and Buddha, I would have blasted the awful humans off the face of the earth the minute they messed up my plan. I wouldn't have waited for several thousand years to watch them mess things up. I wouldn't have bided my time, another plan up my sleeve. Instead of allowing humans and their free will to destroy His will and His plan, He wove our mess-up into His plan, creating a plan that would bring Him more glory than His original plan.

(I'm speaking as if we changed the course of God's glory, though this is not true in the least. For some reason He already had this plan in place, and He was not surprised by our mess-up, even though He created us good to begin with. This is a mystery that the most brilliant minds haven't been able to crack, the mystery of human free-will and God's sovereignty, but I don't have time or knowledge to go into it.)

Instead of stepping into our time and space as a vengeful, wrathful God, wreaking havoc on the subjects who disobeyed him and created a prison of misery for themselves, God quietly broke into our disorder, and came as a baby. A baby. A squalling, messy, time-consuming, needy baby. God in flesh did not come as a conquerer, but instead in the most helpless form a human can assume: a baby.

Why? Why? Why would God chose to interact with us on this level? Why a baby?

Maybe it's because we wouldn't listen as well if it were a conquerer speaking to us His subjects, maybe it's because it would be taking our free-will away and He would rather have us love Him on our own than Him forcing us to. CS Lewis says in his Screwtape letters, the eighth letter, "But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself--creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We [the devils] want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons."

Whatever the reason, because God stepped gently into our world, because He stepped in at all, we now have hope. Anything we see that is in despair, we have hope that that will be touched with the life that comes from knowing Christ. It took more than just a birth as a baby, it took Christ living as a human, in a rugged class of people, a people under the thumb of Rome, teaching and pouring Himself out to the people around Him for three years, and then at the end being unjustly accused by the people He loved of being a criminal and rabble-rouser and then being crucified by them, which is a horrific way to die. It took Christ not only dying for the sake of (and by) the people he loved, but also dying in their place because of the mess they had made (because messing up God's plan and turning your back on Him is actually punishable by death).

If the story ended there, at the Light of the world, the only chance of Life being snuffed out because of us, I would have every right to the miserable things I wrote about at the beginning of this post, but it doesn't end there. God, in His matchless sovereignty saw fit to bring Christ back. He wasn't dead for good. Misery couldn't hold Him in the grave. The darkness that chains the world down couldn't hold the Light back. Just the same as turning on a light in a darkened room banishes the dark, Jesus the Light of the world began the start of banishing dark from every corner of the world by coming back from the dead.

This why the despair we see in the world around us is only temporary. The God-man has broken death's hold. This is why we can say with certainty, "O grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The death that encompasses most of this world has no hold on it any longer. The fingers of death have been shattered. What is left are the cobwebs that need clearing away, so to speak.

To think that life wouldn't be the same if this hadn't happened so long ago. To think: this is why we celebrate Christmas. Praise God for His matchless and infinite, intoxicating, inescapable wisdom, mercy, grace and love. I don't deserve any of it, and yet He has chose to bless me with life. Let me know if I can show you were to find some for yourself.


Tears are falling, hearts are breaking,
How we need to hear from God,
You've been promised, we've been waiting,
Welcome Holy Child, welcome Holy Child.

Hope that you don't mind our manger,
How I wish we would have known,
But long-awaited, Holy stranger,
Make yourself at home,
Please make yourself at home.

Bring your peace into our violence,
Bid our hungry souls be filled,
Word now breaking Heaven's silence,
Welcome to our world, welcome to our world.

Fragile finger sent to heal us,
Tender brow prepared for thorn,
Tiny heart whose blood will save us,
Unto us is born, unto us is born.

So wrap our injured flesh around you,
Breathe our air and walk our sod,
Rob our sin and make us holy,
Perfect son of God, perfect son of God.
Welcome to our world.

Welcome to Our World, by Chris Rice


  1. "...for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10

    Amen. :-)

  2. beautiful - like all of your writing, but this even more because it speaks to the truth and the glory of the Gospel.

    Merry CHRISTmas Hana!