Monday, December 20, 2010
Come with me but quietly please. Do you see what I see?
A young mother pushes in the final stages of labor. A boy is born- wiggling tiny arms and legs, emitting the first cries of life. A young lamb, startled by the crying baby, jumps away through the cave, while an ox moves back from his trough. The new baby boy, wiped clean and wrapped in cloth strips, settles down in the straw while His mother is cared for by Joseph, a carpenter. Outside the world reports for census by imperial decree, uninterested in the birth of one child Who causes all things to exist. Whispers of gentle love and total awe echo in the cave.
"He's here, Joseph. Count His toes and fingers.
"They're all there, Mary. He's fine and healthy. How are you feeling? You were marvelous!"
"I feel wonderful...Jesus, His name is Jesus, 'Salvation is of the Lord.' "
The exhausted new mother falls asleep. A hard-working carpenter stares into a manger. God lies kicking and gurgling in the straw.
Come with me, but you may need to shield your eyes and cover you ears. Do you see what I see?
The dark December night, peppered with stars, violently splits open. A blaze of lightening invades the darkness, but it does not vanish. It stays. Near Bethlehem, shepherds and sheep alike are paralyzed momentarily by the glory. They squint as they gaze up into the night.
Terror grips the heart of these rugged men as they stand captured by the radiance of Heaven. Panic transforms into peace as an angel declares, "Don't be afraid. I bring you good tidings of great joy. Today in David's city a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord!"
The night sky opens even wider. Heavenly beings in a thunderous, joyful chorus fill the night with praise. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!"
Shepherds learn of an infant boy lying in a feeding trough. He is their Savior, the Christ. The skies slap shut, the stars shine on in the night, and shepherds race to see this child who is the Christ.
What do we see, you and I? We see a mystery that shocks our minds. We see the incarnation of God! God, the eternal Son, Who has stepped out from glory and fidgets in a manger bed. We see God made flesh, living among us, beginning as we do. God is with us - the infant, dependent, vulnerable child. Born of a virgin - Immanuel! We bow, awestruck, before the One Who has stooped so humiliatingly low, before the King Who cries as a baby.
But, we see more. We see the heavenly Father Who, when His Son is born, rearranges the night skies and commands heavenly armies to sing. We see a Father whose birth announcement for His Son is written in blazes of glory, punctuated by the voices of angels. We see a celebration of cosmic dimensions. We shield our eyes, catch our breath, and wonder what it all means.
What does it mean, this incarnation of God the Son, and the celebration of God the Father among the heavenly hosts? The name of the baby cradled in the cave outside Bethlehem give us the unmistakable interpretation. His name is "Jesus, because he will save His people from their sin," and they will call Him Emmanuel - which means "God with us." Incarnation and celebration are bonded forever in salvation. God the Son became flesh to save us. The angels sang across the heavens the song of salvation. God the Father sent His Son, Mary gave Him birth, blazing angels celebrated His appearing, shepherds raced to see Him first, He is the Savior, Christ the Lord. Incarnation, celebration, salvation. Jesus gives meaning to them all.
Have you got another minute? Come with me, but brace yourself. Do you see what I see?
A blood stained Jew lifts His head and cries, "It is finished!" Jesus hangs His head, breathes His last breath, and dies suspended on a Roman cross. The Father in Heaven, His holiness revolted by sin, turns His back. The mob spits and curses, some women and a few men weep, while others hide behind barred doors. This is the gutter of the incarnation. The angels are mute, the earth is dark, the Son of God is dead. There is no celebration now, just incredibly costly salvation. He died in the place of others for their sins. He became your sins and mine so that we may become His righteousness.
Yes, we still see incarnation and salvation. But angels do not initiate the celebration now. It's your voice, bowing before the cross, repenting of sin, and rejoicing in salvation, that brings the celebration. The angels eagerly join the happy chorus of the redeemed. Will you join me? Here are the themes of the song:
Incarnation - Jesus
Salvation - Jesus
An unending Marvel
~John W. Frye