Digging deeper into grace (12/06/2017)


Every year during this season we hear again the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth. But do you ever stop to consider the audacious claim of the Bible that Almighty God actually became an embryo in Mary then was born in a small home in Bethlehem and laid in a manger (yes, a home—the typical Palestinian home of that day included a place for the family’s animals to sleep at night).

Many years ago Saint Augustine described the audacious nature of Jesus’ birth:
“Man’s Maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on his journey; that Truth might be accused by false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might be wounded; that Life might die.”

The miracle of Christmas is difficult to fathom!

But if it is true, consider the implications to us.

One implication is that we can know that God understands and that God is approachable even in our greatest struggles. After losing his mother, wife, and daughter when a drunk driver hit his car, Jerry Sittser struggled greatly with grief. In the midst of his pain, he turned to the miracle of God becoming one of us. He writes,
“God embraced human experience and lived with all the ambiguities and struggles that characterize life on earth…. His sovereignty did not protect him from loss. If anything, it led him to suffer loss for our sake…. The God I know has experienced pain and therefore understands my pain…. The Incarnation means that God cares so much that he chose to become human and suffer loss, though he never had to…. He is not aloof from my suffering but draws near to me when I suffer. He is vulnerable to pain, quick to shed tears, and acquainted with grief. God is a suffering Sovereign who feels the sorrow of the world.

“The incarnation has left a permanent imprint on me. For three years now I have cried at every communion service I have attended. I have not only brought my pain to God but also felt as never before the pain God suffered for me. I have mourned before God because I know that God has mourned, too. God understands suffering because God suffered.”

And consider another implication: If God so loved that world that He gave His one and only Son to be born on Christmas day, then those who take Christmas seriously should be active in sharing that same love with the world around us.

The story has been told of a school pageant that took place just before Christmas vacation. The Kindergarten class sang, “‘C’ is for Christmas,” while a child held up a large letter “C.” Then they sang “‘H’ is for Happy,” as the next child held up a large letter “H.” On and on this continued as the class presented the complete message, “Christmas Love.”

The production was going smoothly until one student happened to hold her letter upside down. Rather than holding up the letter “M,” she accidentally turned it into a “W.” When the last letter was lifted, and the full message revealed, what appeared was not the intended “Christmas Love,” but “Christ Was Love.”

From a Christian perspective, that’s the true message of Christmas: Christ was love, and He still is love. Those who take seriously the true meaning of Christmas should be serious about bringing His ongoing love to the world around us. ■

—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.