Unto Us?

Christmas is close upon us and, I think, a prime opportunity to again ask ourselves the only question that will ever ultimately matter: “Is it all really true?” If the story of God choosing to enter into human history by taking on the appearance and likeness of His creation doesn’t cause a few circuit breakers to blow in your head, then maybe you haven’t really considered the Christian gospel at face value.

God choosing to rescue His horribly-broken creation…by becoming part of it. It’s a lot to wrap one’s mind around.

I certainly can’t say that I have grasped the reality of God’s good and perfect plan in its entirety, either. In fact, I think I have only just recently apprehended enough of the truth of the Incarnation – “God with meat on Him” – to make me dead certain that I will never fully “get it” this side of Heaven. It’s too much of a mind-bender; my faith must bridge the gap between what Jesus said and my understanding of it.

This side of Heaven, though, I have seen enough of God’s work to know for certain that He works in ways I will never comprehend and that the way He seems to work most often is through the lives of His people whenever they are more fully surrendered to His will. God can do anything He wants, of course, but He chooses not enter into human lives that do not trust Him. This gift of free will is yet another sign of His goodness and His deep, deep love for His created order. It is yet another amazing mercy of God that He deigns to work with those who are willing – those who have thrown up their hands in prayer and said, “Whatever you want, God…I am all in.”

Need proof? Consider the following.

Earlier today I found myself in Kansas City driving around in pursuit of a ballet shoe specialty store, a business set up for the express purpose of sizing and accurately fitting various types of ballet toe shoes to its clientele. The shoes – just to be clear – were not for me. They were, instead, for a young woman who has come to hold the special place of “adopted daughter” in my heart in a remarkably short time. Two months ago, she and I were complete strangers.

Let me briefly explain how I even came to know this young woman. My wife Shelly runs the various Care Ministries at The Crossing, and so (as you might expect) the physical needs of other people frequently come to her attention. One day, she casually informed me that a young woman from Mongolia was running out of options for affordable living space, and that she only needed “a few more months” in Columbia to finish up her master’s degrees. She also reminded me that we had two empty bedrooms in our basement, just in case I had forgotten this detail. Toss in her sad, puppy-dog eyes and you end up with an international student living in a spare bedroom downstairs.

Now add into the mix that this grad student is also an aspiring student of dance. Fold in the need for a personal fitting of ballet shoes by trained experts in the field of dancing footwear, and the results were that my itinerary for Dec. 23rd began to take shape. One trip to Kansas City to visit family morphed to include a Google-maps-fueled trek to said ballet specialty store, and earlier today I found myself reading an addiction-recovery book while surrounded by tutus, frilly skirts, tights of various sizes and colors and (of course) the most elegant in footwear. To say that this is not the sort of place one would normally expect to find me is something of an understatement.

While I realize that my willingness to enter into this sort of expedition hardly begins to compare with Jesus Christ entering into the history of His fallen creation, it’s also fair to say that this trip would not have happened a handful of years ago. It took the Spirit of God living in me and working over time to make it even possible for me to consider doing this sort of favor for someone I had only met a few weeks earlier. The servant’s heart required to happily search out a ballet specialty store in a city largely foreign to me just didn’t exist even a few short years ago.

Many people I know struggle to accept the Christmas story precisely because they cannot imagine a God Who would stoop so low as to take on human flesh and become one of us. Honestly, as the years go by, this part of the Christmas story seems less and less implausible to me. Yes, it still blows my mind, but not nearly as much as the idea that God chooses to dwell within me, willingly entering into my flesh by His Spirit and transforming me into a guy who gladly surrenders a portion of his day to the proper fitting of ballet shoes.

That God would deign to enter into pure flesh of His own, born of a virgin, seems remarkable. But to enter into my flesh? Scandalous! Unthinkable! I see what’s going on in my heart! Why would Jesus allow Himself to go “dumpster diving” for the sake of someone like me?

Thank you, Jesus, for drawing intimately close to the proud, the foolish and the unlovable. Thank you for loving your enemies. But I confess that I still don’t quite get it.

Merry Christmas to all!

Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)
For to us a child is born,to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

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