There is something about that story.
Whether sitting watching a Veggie Tales ‘Drummer Boy’ Christmas with two of our nieces, or heading out at 11pm last night for a ‘midnight’ service at St John’s Parish in Wynberg, the heart of the story itself is just so loud and completely powerful that it gets me every time.
i know that many of my friends don’t believe.
i know that this has been a tough year in many regards and one in which my faith has in many ways been battered from many sides…
BUT, i hear the story again and suddenly all that Truth comes flowing back.
FOR GOD SO LOVED
i was reminded again last night how my favourite name for God is Immanuel – God with us. The idea that God came close and got involved and experienced what it meant to live and die as a human being.
We struggle to get our minds around that story, especially as we try to become more and more ‘adult’. But children don’t have a problem with it. Of course the whole thing makes sense – if God is the kind of God we learn about then of course He would sneak in quietly in the most unexpected of places rather than arriving in a palace with a fanfare.
CHRIST IN US
i think the story of Jesus’ life can be summed up as the transition from ‘God with us’ to ‘Christ in us’ which Paul writes of as ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’.
Atheists have somehow managed to twist the story of Jesus’ death into an accusation of ‘What a horrible violent God you have if He would kill His own Son’. But i guess it’s the too-complicated-for-our-minds concept of a three-in-one God [Father, Son, Spirit] that allows for that interpretation of events. The moment you realise that Jesus somehow IS GOD, that all changes though:
God with us.
God choosing to sacrifice His life for us.
Jesus standing in the gap – our gap – as a sacrificial lamb taking on our sin.
Jesus taking a bullet for us.
So God moves from ‘God with us’ in the Immanuel, to ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’ once Jesus has died and been resurrected and leaves but sends us His Holy Spirit to live inside of us. We collectively become ‘the body of Christ’ filled with the Spirit of Christ and for those who choose to follow Jesus, because it is always a choice… get to be the living embodiment of Jesus as if He was still walking around and speaking today.
OUR ROLE IN THE GREATEST STORY
Which is where the story stumbles a little bit. God, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Entrusting this to us. To people. Have you seen what we’re like?
It’s part of the mystery of the Gospel.
It’s just one more reason for those outside to look in and go, ‘Well clearly that’s not working.’
And yet it is.
Maybe not in huge and world-shattering ways if you take a look at the mess the world is in and the fear and hopelessness that is pervading much of the world.
But in those places and those moments and those people and even communities of people where they get it, where indeed it is about God being with us and more importantly Christ being in us, then the hope of glory continues to shine.
And i see it. Aslan is on the move…
TIME TO STEP UP
For all my friends, family and visitors to this blog who are christians, that in itself is not enough. You have to be Followers of Jesus. There needs to be following, embodying, speaking, living out in our day to day the kingdom values that He demonstrated and calls us to live and be.
We cannot just believe. We HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO live it out. With our words and our actions and in how we spend our money and how we use our resources and who we engage with and how we choose against compromise and to swim against the currents we find ourselves in – we need to be different. We need to be Him on display.
Too many of us are getting by. Jesus said, “If you want to follow me at all, then you must deny yourself and choose My path for your life, you must take up your cross every single day and as you wake up in the morning choose again to follow Me wherever I will lead you and whatever I will ask you to do, and you need to actively legitimately follow Me.” [Luke 9.23, brettfish paraphrase] That is not an option. It is the ONLY way we can follow Jesus. It’s an ALL IN poker play.
For anyone else who may have kept reading this out of curiosity, i’m sorry that we have not been a better advertisement. i’m sorry for when i have not been a picture of the Love of God that you have been so desperate for in your life.
Please know that there is a God and He loves you and desires to be in relationship with you. It IS a mystery and not a cop out. But if it is true, then how could any of us possibly hope to wrap our minds around a God that is that big? That brought about the Universe in a single command [whether in a moment or over millions of years].
More importantly, a God who chose to come down and show us that living out His kingdom is possible. The kingdom we are called to which has as its number one command:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and Love your neighbour as yourself.
A kingdom where we are commanded to look after those who are marginalised and neglected and not cared for – to reach out to those who are hungry and thirsty and sick or in prison or naked and ashamed.
A kingdom where we absolutely have no choice but to FORGIVE anyone that has wronged us and go and make peace with anyone who has something against us as much as it is possible for us to do.
And so much more.
i will live for that.
i hope, if it ever becomes necessary, that i will die for that.
This is Christmas.
Beyond the excessive gifts and the gluttonous feasts and the stress and panic and impatience and trying to win approval and me-firstness.
This is Christmas.
And i wish you a great one. And a significant new year.
love brett “Fish” anderson and No_bob, the world’s most famous stuffed dolphin