Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 22 December 2009 19:42
What’s the best way to approach a stranger and how do you greet him or her? As you walk toward the stranger, are you worried that you may be robbed, abused or worse?
This is the final week of the Christmas season. At first glance, these questions seem to be a bit out of place when discussing the meaning of Christmas. Then again, as I focus on the story of the Nativity and on the baby in the manger as if I had seen him for the first time, the logic is clear.
If I were the Son of God, and I were preparing to come to earth, in my flawed, human way of thinking, I would have seriously questioned the logic of this plan to introduce the Savior of the world to all of mankind.
Think about it. A baby born to a poor Jewish couple—a virgin birth, no less—and laying in a manger, completely vulnerable to disease, snakes, spiders and viral infections lurking in the unsanitary conditions of the manger is not a good plan. From a public relations perspective it has all the makings of an impending nightmare.
Then, there’s the not so little matter of King Herod and his evil schemes to rid the countryside of any real or imagined threat to his status as the ruler over the Jews. Did that not concern God at all, that his beloved son’s welfare could be in jeopardy?
Once again, with my limited imagination as a normal human being, I’d say that would appear to be a bit neglectful on God’s part.
Returning to the original questions and the logic—as I reflected on Jesus’s birth, I gained a new perspective of this story. The Lord and Creator of the universe came to us in a form that is most vulnerable and yet is inviting us look on him with sweetness and affection as if we’re meeting a tiny infant for the first time.
His vulnerability suggests we can completely trust him in a personal relationship. His innocent gaze into our eyes puts us at ease. We need not fear the unexpected nor be afraid that he will suddenly become angry and humiliate us and make us feel like dirt.
We may already feel like dirt, or worse. Our self-esteem cannot sink any lower. Our sense of shame is a product of despicable acts in our past. We cannot even count the times we lied, lusted, cursed or slandered someone to make ourselves feel like we were better, not to mention the times we cheated on our spouses, dabbled in illicit drugs or surfed the internet to satisfy an insatiable urge for pornography.
Yet, though we hate what we’ve become, we cannot escape the trap of this behavior. Unless something or someone intervenes, we will continue as we are—ashamed, defeated, alone, feeling unwanted and unloved.
Gazing into the eyes of baby Jesus draws us out of our shell. Even though the thought of confessing our sins to someone that is so perfect and innocent may seem out of place or even perverse, we are drawn to reveal our true nature to this humble, innocent king.
Why is this so? He is God, and perfect. We are not. He is the ultimate definition of true love. We desperately desire to be loved.
As we begin our relationship with God, he takes all that guilt and sin away and makes us clean and whole. For the first time in our lives, we begin to know how great this Love is.
God is no longer a stranger to us. He is our friend, our confidant, our source of joy and peace. He is our reason for living and telling other people where they can find true love.
May you have a blessed Christmas as you celebrate Jesus’s birth.