“Christmas: Celebrate the Humble King” (Robert)

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Merry Christmas, TD!

On this Christmas Day, Robert shares an article he wrote for a local paper.  It’s an appropriate read for this special day.  Thanks, Robert!

Christmas: Celebrate the Humble King by Robert Chan

Last year in our home we celebrated our first Christmas together as a family of three. Our baby daughter had just turned four months old. She couldn’t do much except let out gas and look adorable, and yet her presence during that special season opened our eyes in a fresh way to the wonder of Christmas.

It wasn’t because the piece of real estate underneath our Christmas tree was much more crowded than usual; and, no, it wasn’t because our daughter received the most gifts out of anyone in our family. (She received toys and clothes that she probably won’t be able to wear or really enjoy until after this year’s Christmas celebration.) The fresh wonder came as we held in our arms a living reminder of the heart of this holy day. Beyond the lights, trees, songs, and scents—even beyond the shepherds, angels, and animals—the heart of Christmas was laid in a feeding trough two thousand years ago as a baby boy in Bethlehem.

Now this wasn’t what many expected when they were waiting for the fulfillment of God’s Word from the prophet Isaiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV) With those credentials, shouldn’t this king be born in the palace of the greatest existing empire? Instead, he was born in a feeding trough in a very small town of Israel, which in turn was a conquered nation under the rule of the Roman Empire. The all-powerful God did not send His Son to overwhelm the world with might and glory; instead He sent his Son in the weakest form of humanity: a baby. My wife and I could only catch our breath in wonder when we fed our daughter so that she would not starve, changed her so that she would not rot, and carefully bathed her so that she would not drown.  She was totally dependent on us; and it floored us to think of why someone who is used to having everyone dependent on him would willingly place himself in such a position.

The Bible tells us why God humbled himself to such a point: Jesus became human like us in order to stand in our place before God. We all have sinned against our Maker and no amount of sacrifice or penance we can make on our own would overrule the rightful justice we deserve. And so Jesus “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8) He took no shortcuts in living the life we could never live—from birth to death, Jesus lived in perfect obedience and with perfect love for God the Father. He used his human eyes to see needy; he used his feet to move toward the hurting; he used his hands to lift the lowly; and he used his lips to praise his Lord.

But his body was not formed only to do good in our place; it was also formed to be broken for our evil. “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.” (Hebrews 10:5) Jesus himself would be the perfect sacrifice. The hands that God the Father fashioned in the womb of Mary were made to be pierced. God made that heart knowing that it would stop beating for the salvation of many. He breathed air into those lungs so that they would one day collapse under the weight of Jesus’ body hanging on the cross. He wove that skin knowing it would be wrapped in grave cloths only to burst out from them in the triumphant defeat of death. Truly, “God so loved the world that He gave His Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This Christmas, take time to marvel at this humble King and the costly peace bought by the sacrifice of the Prince of Peace

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“Christ as One Shrouded in Mystery” (Judy)

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Hey TD!

Heading into Christmas, here’s a piece Judy has written for us to think upon as we fight to keep Christ in Christmas.  Thanks Judy!

Christ as One Shrouded in Mystery by Judy Wu

It is needless to describe how the Christ has been taken out of Christmas in this nation. What was once a sacred time where folk would count down in Advent to celebrate the coming of the Lord into humanity has been turned into explosions of lollipop red, glittery sparkles, and blasted commercialism in every direction. “Happy holidays” becomes more commonly proclaimed than “Merry Christmas.” But if Christ is not at the center of the holiday, then what is?

Aside from the ridiculousness of our ignorance comes another form of absurdity in its recognition. Frederick Buechner describes the Incarnation as “a kind of vast joke whereby the creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers… Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.” It is almost blasphemous to proclaim so boldly that the Lord of the infinite galaxies chose to lay in a foul-smelling, rank animal habitat in order to give a new definition to humanity. And yet we set up euphemus nativity scenes with a placidly smiling Jesus, a Jesus with a perfectly spherical halo around his head, a clean and glowing Jesus, when in reality, his birth was a literal physical manifestation of being born into a world terribly tarnished by sin. As Frederica Mathewes-Green writes “We grew up with the Jesus story, until we outgrew it.1

There is much mystery in the Incarnation, and the more knowledge acquired about Jesus and the drawing close of the relationship does not detract from the enigma, but rather adds to it. How could someone so great choose to be so small? How could someone so far above the confines of space and time want to reside in me? As we understand more about the vastness of God, the more mysterious the Incarnation becomes. And mystery is heaven’s soft whisper that this is not all that there is.

Let us never outgrow the Jesus story. It is our natural inclination to be familiar and therefore, lord over our surroundings. But with something so absurd yet beautiful, it is impossible to truly grow accustomed with it. Like a diamond, it reflects new colors at every turning of the facets. It is only until we reach the source of heaven’s beckonings that we will ever understand. But until then, may our numbness of the birth of baby Jesus be turned into mystery with our every drawing close to Him.

1 At the Corner of East and Now, Frederica Mathewes-Green