Gaudete

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione et obsecratione cum gratiarum actione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Expectation.

Preparation.

Hope.

Rejoice.

In one week the stockings come down and the presents unwrapped. A brief moment of cheer set against the bleak backdrop of encroaching winter. The days get shorter, the nights, colder. Twinkle lights and fires glow, pushing back the dark.

It doesn’t really matter that nobody knows exactly when Jesus was born, or that He probably did not pierce a winter’s night sky with His first cry. Celebrating Christmas near the time of the solstice makes sense. Nature itself provides the observant with a handy display, a physical manifestation of the weariness that we have all felt at one point or another. Bare tree limbs poke at the drab sky. First snowfalls have long turned to mush or melted away entirely, leaving a sickly-colored earth behind. Animals, when they stir at all, move slowly, as if gravity has become stronger.

What better time to stop and remind ourselves of the wonder that is the Incarnation?

I have often wondered what it must have been like for Jesus to fit Himself into a tiny baby body. He never stopped being God. He never forgot what it was like to be limitless and glorified. How odd it must have been for Him, to find His voice, the one that said, “Let there be light!,” reduced to the helpless squalling of an infant. How odd it must have been for Him, the first time He felt the pangs of hunger. I wonder if He ever looked at His mother and felt just a little sad, because He knows what it is to love the way mothers do and He knew her heart would be broken. I wonder if He ever experienced frustration over His lack of limb control or hated to have His diaper changed.

It doesn’t make sense, does it, that He would do this for us?

Yet He did.

He who heard the sound of angels now heard the snarfling of a donkey. He who breathed in holy incense now smelled the sweat and blood of a young woman. He who felt the weight of majestic robes now felt His earthly father’s beard brush against tender skin. He who rightly rules over all found Himself hidden away in a cave-barn.

I wonder if the angels stared at Him for a good long while before breaking into their song. I wonder if they were truly baffled at what He had done. I wonder if the animals in that cave understood that they were in the presence of the One who had made them. I wonder how the Father felt. I’m sure Satan laughed at the absurdity of it all.

The Incarnation will never be fully understood by us, this side of Eternity. Any question we might have answered will only lead to more questions. This is something that we accept on faith. God became man without sacrificing His Godness. This just is. We have to relinquish control and embrace the mystery.

Gaudete, my friend. Rejoice. Your King has drawn near.

Signature

Photo Credit: Walter Chavez

Five Minute Friday: Invite

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

No preamble. I’m nearly asleep.

Kate says: invite.

Go.

Sometimes you just have to break down and take the legal, prescribed narcotics.

I lay in bed Monday night, doing battle with the Witch-King of Angmar (second Tolkein shout out of the week; the image of an invisible nazgul stabbing me in the head is just the perfect way to describe this headache and I don’t care if you label me an ultra-nerd). The medication haze had descended but I was not yet sleeping. I inhabited that fuzzy, frothy place filled with pink elephants on parade. Then – BAM!

Genesis 21:31. Genesis 21:31. Genesis 21:31.

I said, out loud, “Yeah, okay,” and went to sleep.

Looked up the verse the next day. It reads:

Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because the two of them swore an oath there. (NKJV)

Sooooo….what?

I opened up my atlas and my commentaries. Searched the original Hebrew online. Read the context. Haven’t the slightest idea what it is that I’m supposed to glean here. I know the Holy Spirit dropped this into my mind, because it’s far too obscure and weird and disconnected from what I’m currently studying to be anything that I’d come up with. I’m sure this is the start of something, some lesson that I need to learn (or, potentially, relearn, because God is both patient and a perfectionist).

Why share this with you?

Because, dear reader, this month I’m writing about theology, and part of the pursuit of knowing God more deeply is understanding that we’ll never reach the bottom of His well. There’s always mystery. Always things that He knows that are beyond our grasp. The moment we take Christ’s hand, we are set on a never-ending journey (hence the title of this blog), with just enough light to take the next step. No doubt days, months or even years from now, some switch will flip in my head and I’ll think, “Ah, yes. That’s why I needed to know this verse.”

The mystery, God Himself, entices. He invites. He draws us inward and onward. Trust Him, little human. You cannot see the whole road, but you’ll always see exactly what you need to see, when you need to see it.

Stop.

Signature

The Manger, the Cross

{ image source }

Gentle Reader,

“To the first-century citizen, the cross was not a beautiful piece of jewelry; it was the lowest form of death and the ultimate in humiliation. The proper Roman citizen would never mention the cross in polite conversation. It stood for rejection and shame.” – Warren Wiersbe, Be Free: Galatians, 155.

If anyone ever had the right to walk the earth with a strut, it is Jesus. After all, He made it.

Yet from His first, squalling baby-cry to His last gasping breath on the cross, Jesus exemplified humility. He came here and lived as and among the lowest. He chose to identify with shepherds and carpenters, peasant girls and widows. He did not have the finest clothes to wear or the best food to eat. He didn’t have a place to call His own.

His parents couldn’t put Him in a snug little bed that night so long ago. They laid Him in a feeding trough. Rough hay rustled with the smallest of His movements.

Jesus suffered. He lived as one hounded and oppressed from His first day of life to His last. The carpenter’s Son lived in a backwater. He never had money to spare. He felt the weight of religious legalism and the weight of political chaos. A king tried to kill Him in Bethlehem and a king would conspire to kill Him in Jerusalem – and succeed.

It’s no wonder that the world-at-large is okay with faith so long as it’s not faith in Jesus. Unbridled tension gallops through the story of His life. A King who served? A Savior who bled? God in flesh? Tremble at the implications. Jesus is confrontational. He gets up in your business and there are only two ways to respond: Love Him or hate Him. There is no such thing as indifference toward the Man from Galilee, for indifference is only the sly form of hate.

The infinitely wealthy Lord of all, in a manger.

The King of Kings, on the cross.

My journey to faith. (15)