Jesus knows you, loves you, and longs for you to ask sacred questions.
God could, had He pleased, have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape Him. Of His great humility He chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane.
(This article includes a link to the Advent reading plan, Sacred Questions at Christmas on YouVersion.)
Every Christmas for at least the past fifteen years, my friend Becky has been organizing an event on the south side of Chicago for kids who live in a shelter that houses battered and abused women and their children. Most of the children are younger than ten years old and have already suffered enough for a lifetime. But on this day, Becky, along with a group of volunteers of which I have been a part for nearly all of those fifteen years, brings hearty home-cooked food and a gift for every one of the fifty to sixty kids there. Because of the coordination Becky does in advance, each present is handpicked for the particular child, and the gifts include both a toy or fun item and a winter coat or other practical item.
From the outside, this event may look like any other event occurs around Christmas time, with no tie to Jesus himself or the meaning of Christmas. It might appear to be locked into the cultural imagination of Christmas as a consumeristic extravaganza. But if you could be present at the events, you would detect something utterly different going on under the surface. You see, after we eat (the volunteers serve the women and children), each child is called up by name near the Christmas tree. For years Marcus, a volunteer, would call out, “Tyler! Come on up! Merry Christmas. Let’s all give a clap for Tyler!” All those gathered in the shelter would clap and cheer, as if to say, “We see you, Tyler! We love and value you!” Child after child would be called up to receive a gift and a cheer. Each one would turn back to his or her mom with joy and delight.
“God became flesh and ‘moved into the neighborhood.'”
Christmas is God’s “I see you! I love and value you!” to humanity. Historically, Christmas was the beginning—from our perspective—of the revelation that “all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Now Christmas is the day we celebrate the actual historical event in which the eternal Word of God came to earth in a human body to be with his creation and experience what it means to live in a vulnerable, aging, limited body. In other words, he didn’t seek to help us from afar; he came close. God became flesh and “moved into the neighborhood,” as Eugene Peterson would say (John 1:14, msg), in order to show us how to live, to suffer alongside us by going through all that we experience in a body, and then to redeem and restore us. This was God’s promise and purpose all along. Now we are waiting for Christ to return and finally and fully bring God’s Kingdom on earth.
But we are not simply idle during this time, waiting out our hours on earth so we can make it somewhere else. We actually get to participate in what God is doing to redeem and restore the world. We get to say to Tyler and all the little boys and girls like him, “I see you! I love and value you!” because we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us to be like Jesus in the world. Each time I think of this, it astounds me. Of course, we get to say way more than even just “I see you! I love and value you!” We get to say that the creator of all things loves and sees each individual person around us, so much so that he acted in a spectacular way—through Jesus Christ—to bring them into new life to be with him, living in light and power and love. We wait for Christ to return, and as we do, we get to join in God’s work: “through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20, niv).
In my book, Sacred Questions, there is a fifteen-day section on Christmas which focuses on the truth that God came to be with us—to say yes to us—in a body. This body started as a helpless baby and then grew into a toddler, then a young prepubescent boy, then a teenager, and finally a man. The invitation in this section is to open ourselves to discovering what it means for us that God was embodied in Jesus of Nazareth, especially in a season marked so deeply by consumerism and non-Christian tradition. I have also created a YouVersion Advent reading plan, Sacred Questions at Christmas.
Pray with me.
Here I am, Lord,
in my tired, aging, hurting, wondrous body.
Open my heart to you now.
You are my High Priest who knows.
This article is from Sacred Questions: A Transformative Journey Through the Bible which contains 365 days of responding to God.
Follow the rhythm of Sacred Questions to develop a posture of openness and reflection in God’s presence. You will experience transformation in the midst of your struggles, pain, joy, and triumphs.
Over a yearlong practice of daily reading and reflecting on Scripture, Sacred Questions will help you understand who God is and who you are in Christ, break patterns of sin, and grow you in forgiveness and in love.