As you gather with your family and/or friends, ponder this question:
What was your favorite part of the Christmas Eve worship service?
I’ll bet you get a variety of answers.
My unofficial poll included the music offerings, and when all the lights are turned off and Silent Night is sung by candle light.
The telling of the story didn’t make our list.
I wonder if we have become so familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth, that we forget to be amazed?
I spent Christmas Eve too sick to attend worship. Home alone, in bed, I decide to read the story. I’m glad I did. Functioning as the only component of “worship” that I had, it allowed for deep contemplation.
I was reminded of the wondrous, amazing aspect of Christmas.
What’s that you say?
As explanation, I’ll use a phrase often heard in this season:
The Incarnation is a concept that leaves me awestruck. (And also feeling a bit jumbled – reminding me that sometimes we have to live in the mystery.)
Incarnation is a big word that comes from Latin, meaning “the act of being made flesh.” It’s what God did in the birth of Jesus. Somehow, mysteriously, Jesus is both fully God and fully human!
In Jesus, God is with us!
The prophet Isaiah had described our coming Savior as Emmanuel. What a perfect title for Jesus, because “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” It’s the very thing we need and look forward to the most: the presence of God himself! Jesus wasn’t born just to save us from our sins; God came to be with us.
God loved us so much that he chose to come into the world in the actual person of Jesus. We find this expressed in John 1:14, which paraphrased reads…
The “Word” was made flesh and moved in with us.
Even more amazing (if that is possible)… God joined us, not just in human form but as a tiny, helpless baby! What are we to make of this news? Knowing what we know, what will we do?
Who would have looked for God as a baby in a manager in a stable?
If the way we live shows what we believe, should we be actively looking for God among us?
What does God with us look like today?
Richard Rohr calls it, “hidden inside of ordinariness.”
A humdrum home for animals, equipped with a feeding trough. Where will God-with-us show up next?
Have you observed God, hidden, yet present with us, in the ordinary?
Let’s look for Emmanuel! Here are a few searching suggestions:
- Go for a drive at night, and be dazzled by the neighborhoods festooned in Christmas lights.
- If it snows, go outside and catch flakes on your tongue. (Or spend time studying the rain drops rolling down the window pane.)
- Lay on your backs under your Christmas tree and silently gaze upward, pondering the beauty and perhaps the scent of pine or spruce.
- Watch and notice when your child seems in an attitude of awe. (A moment of wonder is often characterized by quiet stillness rather than enthusiastic activity.) Silently join them in their observation.
- Where will you find God?
May you experience God with you — in whatever ordinary awesomeness he arrives.
The first photo is from my archives.
Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem was created by moi from an Unsplash.com image by Tim de Groot. The figures were adapted from wpclipart.com; the words are the start of Luke 2:4, NIV.
Star over Bethlehem by Garrett W. offered on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Birth of Jesus is a portion of “The Adoration of the Shepherds,” a 1622 painting by Gerard van Honthorst; from Wikimedia, in the Public Domain.
Babe in a manger by Rapolas; from Pixabay, in the CC0 1.0 Public Domain.
First snow by Joe Thorn, offered on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.