Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve 2020 | God Came in Vulnerability to Get Us Back

Children of Men: The Key for Humanity is the Life and Sacrificial Death of God to Provide Resurrection

Jesus disarms Himself of heaven so that you can take Him in arms on earth. + Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

"God Came in Vulnerability to Get Us Back" excerpt from Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas

Scriptures: Matthew 1:18-23

There are words that ring like a hammer, that split apart the atoms of things, that startle us out of the dead of sleep.

He. Will. Save.
God. With Us.

Words with weight. Words with the weight of glory in them, the whole of cosmic questions – words that answer all things of gravity, that bring down the love of heaven.

This is after Mary tells him. This is after the white heat of the Annunciation – earth and heaven and holy fire weld in a womb. This is after the Creator, who cups the ocean depths in the hollow of His hand, folds Himself into amniotic fluid and grows bones that ache like yours. This is after the eternal Divine without end divides in cells like bread multiplied, turns the water of the Word into blood. This is after that.

When a carpenter dreams about the birth of God.

Mary has her angelic visitation to hear of the Incarnation weeks ago. Joseph gets only the stinging betrayal of her swelling abdomen. He gets one painfully awkward conversation. He gets to lie awake at night wondering what a nice guy like him is doing in a mess like this. No unassuming angel shows up for him until he's already made up his mind and heart to mercifully let her go. There is always that – we are not spared of all trials, but we are always spared of the trials that have no gifts.

God always gives God. Hush away the hurry, the worry. We can always have as much God as we want. That's what Joseph's angel says – that what is stretching Mary's skin is God. (What is always stretching us is God.)

That only the Ancient of Days has the authority to name this coming child, because the instant He inhales His first breath, He is older than His parents, older than the earth. He is Jesus; He is "the Lord Saves"; He is God with us, Immanuel.

It is Advent that first makes the absolute claims of Christ. Like the diagnosis of a doctor, every other religion says that good-enough living will save us. But like a soul specialist, Christianity examines our hearts and says that actually we're all terminal unless we take Christ – that it's Jesus who saves us.

Every Christmas tree is shadowed by the Cross Tree: it's at the Tree that God does heart transplants – He takes your heart and does surgery. Christianity doesn't make narrow-minded claims. It makes a different kind of diagnosis. It's not about being narrow minded – it's about offering a different kind of medicine. In the care of our own souls, Christianity isn't so much about exclusiveness but effectiveness. What will actually save us? 

Everyone, everywhere looks forward to Christmas. And it's the joy of Christmas that offers the gift of exclusiveness
 – because of its effectiveness to save the terminal soul.

He. Will. Save.
God. With. Us.

God can't stay away. This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning. The God who walked with us in the Garden in the cool of the evening before the Fall shattered our closeness with Him is the God who came after His people in the pillar of cloud, of fire, because He couldn't bear to let His people wander alone. He is the God who came to grieving Job as a whirlwind, a tornado, a hurricane, who convenanted to Abraham as a smoking furnace, who wildly pitched His tent with the Holy of Holies so somehow, in all His holy Shekinah glory, He could get close enough again to live amid His people. He is the God who is so for us that He can't stay away from us. The God who loves us and like us and isn't merely 50 percent or 72.3 percent for us, but the God who is always, unequivocally, 100 percent for us – the God who so likes us, the God who is so for us that He is the God who chooses to be with us.

Jesus disarms Himself of heaven so that you can take Him in arms on earth. He comes vulnerable because He knows the only way to intimacy with you is through vulnerability with you. You can't get to intimacy except through the door of vulnerability. So God throws open the door of this world – and enters as a baby. As the most vulnerable imaginable. Because He wants unimaginable intimacy with you. What religion ever had a god that wanted such intimacy with us that He came with such vulnerability to us? What God ever came so tender we could touch Him? So fragile that we could break Him? So vulnerable that His bare, beating heart could be hurt? Only the One who loves you to death. Only the God who had to come back to get you. Only the God who would risk vulnerability, pay the price for your iniquity, because He wanted nothing less than intimacy.

It cost Him everything to be with you. Who will spend a fraction of time just to be with Him? Who wants the gift of His presence?

Advent is about God's doing whatever it takes to be with us – and our doing whatever it takes to be with Him. He climbed down from the throne in heaven to get to you. Climb over the throes of the season to get to Him.

There are candles to be lit. There is space to be made. The stars are moving nearer now.

John Wesley died with the words "The best of all is God is with us" on his tongue. They could also beat in our hearts. They could be the ever beat of our drum, like the ringing of a hammer, like the thrum of love coming close.

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

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