Friday, December 23, 2011

The Divine Intrusion

“… for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…”

Out of Eternal Present into the human timeline, God stepped Not some day or whenever. Today. A day on a calendar, called Thursday or Saturday or Monday. An apparently ordinary day, just like any other day filled with normal life and mundane activities – buying and selling, teaching and learning, cooking and cleaning, blogging and twittering - today - suddenly invaded by heaven itself.

Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts… Hebrews 3:15

In the city of David…
A place, specific location with exact geographic coordinates. That’s where you and I live. Right here. A zip code. A street and a house with a number. A grocery store on the corner. The coffee shop. A country inn. Not over there. Somewhere. Nowhere. It’s right here. God’s acts are local. His ways are above and beyond our ability to fathom, but His deeds are manifested locally – a family, an inn in a little town, in a country.

There has been born...Birth initiates something utterly new. Something that didn't exist before suddenly comes into existence and life is changed forever. The day you were born changes everything for you. It's a beginning of a one-of-a-kind adventure, having a ripple effect that only eternity will fully reveal. The birth of God-Child changes everything not only for Him, but for every one of us.

For you… You. Personal you. Not him or her. But you. Me. Pronouns carry tremendous weight that can shift focus and create either walls or bridges. Us and Them. We. The letters in my mailbox are addressed to me. I don’t read my neighbor’s mail. It’s his mail, not mine. God’s love letter to humanity enveloped in the human flesh called Jesus is addressed to YOU. The moment you receive it, it becomes personal. Your mailbox. Your Christmas card. Written, signed and sealed by God Almighty.

A Savior.
Our lives reach far beyond our capacity and control. We are more, so much more than what we can understand or handle. We are designed with insatiable, often misdiagnosed, hunger that only God can satisfy… again, and again, and again…. You can call it a programming, design flaw or you can call it an upgrade. Like it or not, nothing, nothing on this earth or in heaven can put my heart and yours at rest until it rests in Him. Even after I’ve done everything in my power, there is this unfathomable landscape my soul that only Savior can rescue, redeem, tame and restore. I need a Savior. You need a Savior.

Who is Christ, the LORD.
An ordinary human doesn’t qualify for this Savior job description. I can’t do it for me. I can’t do it for you. You can’t do it for me. Neither can Obama, or Ghandi, Muhammad, Buddha, Mother Theresa, Steve Jobs, Tim Tebow, European Union, or United Nations, husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, professor, boss. Only the Creator God is fit for this job. The one and only Son of God. The first of many Sons and Daughters of Man. The moment this Creator God, the LORD, became human - with this one decisive action – He forever changed both eternity and the space/ time continuum. He became irrevocably human. From that day on – and will remain forever. And all who receive Him become eternally, irrevocably sons and daughters of God.

The cosmic transaction – the divine intrusion - moved the eternal Word of God out of the realm of religious speculation, personal interpretation and opinion into the realm of historic action – the here, the now, the you and the I – and the Emmanuel ‘God with us’. There are no spectators in this story. Nobody’s sitting on the sidelines. No indifferent bystanders. Sooner or later everyone takes sides – even those who want to be left alone, remain unengaged – their choice made for them by default. What will it be?

Today, just like that day, some receive Him, some deny Him. Some welcome Him with open arms, and some have no room for Him. Some come from afar seeking to worship Him, and some search the neighborhood in order to kill Him.

What will it be? What will I choose?

Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart… for today, in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Who Mugged Up the Mirror?

Blame it on extended holiday hours, or too many lights on the Christmas tree, or too much blue in the sky, or just plain old human nature that simply can’t handle too much of anything, including a good thing… whatever the cause, the effect was that right around bedtime the pandemonium broke out. Tempers flared. Fists flew. Fingernails clashed. Words were said. By an executive decision, the baths were suspended and the offenders sent straight to bed. Being stinky never killed anyone.

The next day, even after a good night’s sleep, the memory of what had happened lingered heavy over the household. I would have much preferred to start the new day with a sincere apology, but experience taught me that those can’t – nor should be – coerced. A good scrubbing would have to suffice.

I listened to the water running behind the closed bathroom door, rehearsing ways to address the previous night’s issues without instigating the WWIII in the process. What seemed like eternity later, I heard a tiny voice calling my name.

The moment the door swung open, I was enveloped by the billows of steam, creating a pocket of zero-visibility inside the bathroom. In the middle of it, Child #1 stood wrapped in a bath towel, looking sheepishly at me. The mirror behind was completely veiled in puffy white. Then, with the corner of my eye, I noticed something scribbled on it. As the fog slowly dissipated I read the message:

I am sorry for mugging up the mirrer.

I stared at the writing at a complete loss of what I was supposed to do… Thank the Child #1 for taking such meticulous responsibility for the self-correcting housekeeping infringement?!!?? I had an item or two from The Need to Apologize list I was itching to volunteer that, according to my scale, far exceeded in importance the borderline insulting confession.

I cleared my throat hoping to buy some time in order not to add more steam to the situation from my own boiling over temper. Finally, I spluttered:

Is THAT ALL you have to apologize for?

The Child #1 bowed her head and quietly nodded.

We stood in silence in the middle of the bathroom for about a decade or two. The steam slunk out through the open door, gradually clearing up the large mirror. I noticed our reflection, the furrowed brow, the weighed-down look, the fuzzy towel and the softness of the blushed skin. The peculiar apology, I observed, also disappeared, going the way of the mist.

The anger, the exhaustion, the noise, the words that should never be of last night suddenly resembled the thick haze mucking up the mirror of our lives, clouding up the image of the One we were uniquely designed to reflect… I think how all too easily the baggage of life – the restlessness, fatigue, expectations, disappointments, misunderstandings and sometimes even the high-pitched chords of seasonal happiness - perturb the reflection of the Christ-reality, fogging up the mirror we are uniquely designed to be…

The Child #1 looks up, splatters of bashful hope glistening like droplets dripping from her wet hair.

Perhaps, that’s exactly what we need to apologize for… what I need to be sorry… and broken for … … for perpetually mugging up the mirror of my life…of our lives… obliterating, twisting, marring the image, the reflection of the face of God we are created and cleansed to become…

Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…
Genesis 1:26

Alas, even to this day there is still a veil over their hearts when the Scriptures are read – they don’t realize it is removed in Christ. But whenever a man turns to the Lord the veil disappears…But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image… 2 Corinthians 3:14-18

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Room to Spare

It shows up every year, some time in early December. Out of the dust-covered box lying dormant on the dirty garage floor, buried under loads of other dusty boxes, untouched for eleven months. When it first appeared in the middle of our living room, years ago, my husband and I were newly married, young and quite naïve. At the time, our lives were simple and our furniture few. Happy and ignorant, we went out to shop one of those after-Christmas clearance sales. We came back home jubilant, hauling in the biggest Christmas tree we could afford. The tree was beautiful and tall. When put together branch by branch, it filled at least a half of our living room, imposing its glorious presence on all this empty space. We loved our tree.

Then, a friend gave us his old TV because he was moving to Australia. Later on, we bought an armoire to accommodate our newly-acquired TV and a matching stand to hold our collection of CDs and VCRs (DVDs were not invented yet). Over the years, we kept accumulating more and more stuff – a DIY project here, and a curb-side mall find there; then came our first child with all his accompanying paraphernalia and soon afterward, another with all the mentioned paraphernalia of a different, she color. So, bit by bit, mountain by mountain stuff kept marching across our doorstep. The stuff we needed, or thought we or somebody we knew needed or might need some day kept ringing our doorbell. Slowly but surely, our huge house started filling up all its empty places, obliterating the memory of the simple life we once used to live.

The tree also appeared to grow bigger and bigger each year, transforming from a beautiful symbol of everlasting life that the birth of God’s Son brought into the world, into a household monstrosity, turning our home upside down each Christmas season. Every December, in order to make room for its ever-expanding (or so it seemed) limbs, we have to move the sofa into the guest bedroom, and the keyboard with its stand into our son’s bedroom, and the spare desk into the dining room, and the bench from the guest bedroom…

Honey, where are we going to put the bench?!!!

Making room for the tree has become our number one Christmas chore…er… I meant to say tradition.

This is insane! We need to hire movers or a chiropractor to set up the darn thing. We should just get rid of it. I scowled at the tree as if it was its fault.

We don’t have room for you! No room. Period.

The silent echo reverberated with familiarity. No room… no room… no room…… in… the… inn…

With sudden realization, a mess of conflicting feelings that must have torn the insides of the Bethlehemian inn-keeper settled in my stomach. I could imagine myself standing at the door of our house, suspiciously eyeing a tired, frost-bitten couple with the baby on the way…

I am so sorry, but we have no room for you anywhere in the house…. However, there is a bit of space in our garage among all the boxes, and garden tools, and discarded toys, and bicycles… if you don’t mind…

I took a step away from the tree, staggered by its quiet testimony of the clutter overcrowding my life. The space.

The time.

What else got pushed out by the relentless torrent of unrestrained real and perceived needs, wants, desires, personal and ministry responsibilities, demands, requirements? Is all my worthless junk swallowing up what is really precious before my very eyes? Do I even know the difference?!!! And, how in the world did I come to resent something I used to love... and enjoy?!!

The evergreen assayer stood still, its lights blinking brightly.

Perhaps… what I really need… for Christmas… is to just to make… a little more room… a LOT more room in my life. So the Life Himself can come in.

He came to His own and those who were His own didn't receive Him... John 1:11