Friday, December 30, 2016

Mary's Choice (and Mine)

The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." . . . And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:35 & 38)
Oh, Mary. For generations, we have marveled at your (apparently) easy and gracious acceptance of the angel’s shocking proclamation: that you would have a baby out of wedlock – God’s very own child – and that the Spirit, not your betrothed husband Joseph, would be the Father.
What did you think when you saw that angel? What emotions stirred in you when you heard those words? Did you gasp, amazed that you would be chosen to be mother of the long-awaited Messiah? Did you imagine the gossip and inevitable derision from your family and neighbors, as you bore a child without benefit of marriage? Did you wonder if Joseph would spit on you and walk away?
Did your heart leap with joy and anticipation? With fear and doubt? All at the same time? Perhaps you, as any girl would have, felt an intense mix of emotions and thoughts.
After all, even your flawless son, the Son of God, wrestled with fear and doubt when push came to shove. A few short days before his death, he vacillated between wanting to move toward the cross for God and His people, and wanting that particular cup of suffering to be removed from Him, without having to taste its unspeakable horrors.
But in the end, He chose His Father’s way: “Not my will, but yours.” Just as you had chosen, decades earlier, God’s life-changing, earth-shattering call to bear His Son.
I’ve never heard a word from an angel, like you have. But God has spoken to me through His word, in prayer, through insights and images, preparing me, comforting me, warning me, guiding me. My desire is that my faith in Him would win out over my fears of the future - like it did with you. That, even though I don’t know the specifics of what's coming, I can say to Him, “I’m your servant, Lord. I will trust you even when I don’t understand. Whatever you’ve got down the road, I want it to be according to your word, not according to my wants and worries. Even without an angel. Even without an audible word.”
In this particular season, it is harder for me to embrace God’s plan with eager arms and an easy smile. But then I look at the Savior that He sent to walk in our shoes, whom He brought through you, a young girl with a willing heart. I think of how God used unexpected, shocking, painful circumstances to deliver His Son to earth, to deliver us. I know that He is working in us for our good and for His glory. I come to this conclusion: He may call my family and myself to hard things. My thoughts and emotions may be all over the map along the way. Still, He is utterly trustworthy. He always walks with us. His wise purposes and loving plans will be accomplished.
So along with you, Mary, I choose to say, “I am your servant, Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Vulnerable Savior

The timeless story of Christmas never changes:

Jesus has come.

His life and light live in us today.

And one day, He will come again!

Yet each year, as my own storyline deepens and develops, as I traverse a new bend in my life’s path, I discover another nuance of the Story - of Jesus Himself - to ponder and to praise.

This year, I am distinctly aware of my vulnerability and helplessness in dealing with the curve balls that flew our way in 2016. Those sensations can overwhelm me, tempting me to feel I’m alone (I know full well I’m not!). And so this year, I am soaking in this truth:

Jesus came to us as a baby, so very vulnerable and weak and helpless.

Like me.

Jesus might have come as a grown man, a powerful king, a wise rabbi. He might have just skipped all the childhood years (about which we hear almost nothing in Scripture) and just gotten to the meat and potatoes of his earthly ministry. But no, he was born like the rest of us: crying, shivering, helpless.

How can God be needy? Of all the paradoxes we find in God’s Word, this may be one of the most mysterious! So much so that many have thought it to be blasphemy. Other major world religions cannot comprehend a faith that has at its center a vulnerable God. A God who would be human, even as He remains God. Who would be born of an earthly mother. Who would have to learn: to sit up, to walk, to speak. A God who would grow.

Let alone a God who would die a shameful death at the hands of his enemies.

“Jesus was vulnerable when delivered bare as an infant, and he was vulnerable when laid bare by his executioners.”

Why does this matter to me? Because Jesus has gone to such lengths to identify with us! To experience humanity in every way. Even as he sits upon His throne, He has human scars, holds human memories. He knows what it means to be lonely and sad. To laugh until you cry. To be hungry. To enjoy feasting and fellowship with others. To need and to long. To have that longing satisfied. Or not.

He knows! My heart swells with gratitude for this remarkable intimacy I share with my Saviour. What fellowship we have with a God who truly understands our humanity!

I love Jesus from beginning to end, and worship him as a resurrected Savior, Friend, Redeemer, Lord, Teacher. But this Christmas, in the stillness of waiting and the hope of anticipation, I am particularly comforted and strengthened to look upon the helplessness and the vulnerability of Jesus.

Joy has dawned upon the world, promised from creation:
God's salvation now unfurled, hope for every nation.
Not with fanfares from above, not with scenes of glory.
But a humble gift of love: Jesus born of Mary.
Hands that set each star in place, shaped the earth in darkness,
Cling now to a mother's breast, vulnerable and helpless.

(Stuart Townend, Joy Has Dawned)

Hear this beautiful song here.