Peace on Earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!
. . . . .
Pleased as Man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
[literally “God with us”]
What do you do when someone has offended you?
Sinned against you?
My reflex is to turn away from the offender, the offense;
Withdraw. Take cover. Create distance: It’s a gut reaction.
Like touching a hot burner on the stovetop and recoiling, recovering, self-protecting.
Other temperaments have an opposite instinct: attack, lash back, respond in kind.
This Christmas month, the marvelous truth I’ve been turning over in my mind
(like a flawless diamond, radiant from every angle)
In Jesus’ coming to earth,
God moved toward His offenders.
He came to establish peace
with those waging war against Him.
Think of the scale of our offense:
The Creator of all made us in His image,
to be near Him,
to know Him intimately,
to love Him and be loved by Him –
But humanity – by the millions –
His response to us defies human sensibility:
He did not turn His back, leaving us to our own foolish devices,
Letting humanity and creation spin out to its inevitable self-destruction.
Nor did he release His holy fire, destroying us
with the blaze of His (well-deserved) judgment.
He entered our world, coming close to those who had pushed Him away.
He moved toward those who had rejected Him.
He ‘climbed into our skin and walked around in it.’
Think of the scale of His earthly entrance:
From a radiant throne at His Father’s side,
Where He enjoyed a perfect relationship with His Father,
In a perfect place, utterly pure,
He stooped down low . . .
into an animal barn,
a backwater town,
an occupied nation,
a sin-stained world,
To come face to face with His offenders.
He came in compassion, in gentleness;
He came not to shake His fist at us, but to reach out His welcoming arms.
He came, ‘God with us’
To live the life we could not,
To give us peace with God that we could not make ourselves,
To call us His friends when we were His enemies.
Even to die at the hands of mankind – the greatest offense imaginable –
So that He could rescue us by God’s strong and tender hand.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God
through the death of His Son, it is much more certain,
now that we are reconciled, that we shall be saved
through His resurrected life. (Romans 5: 10)