109. Christmas Eve

Snow is silently covering the grass, trees, shrubs and street. We’ll be going out to church in a few hours. Likely to be a slippery but lovely mess. We’ve had no snow to date, and what a nice touch to get an inch today. Snow has always brought peace in my life, I think. You cannot argue with it or get too annoyed like you can with wind and rain, hurricanes and tornados. Snow is just silent precipitation. A lot of folks will stay home tonight, rework their plans rather than drive through the white lardlike streets. But we’ll hop in the CRV and venture forth with all wheel drive. No problem. I actually enjoy driving in the snow, as long as everyone else stays home and off the roads.

No Santa, no donkeys, no wise men to compete with on the road tonight. But this works both ways. Our two dinner guests called off, presumably for weather related reasons. Okay, so we’re down to just immediate family, whom I love, but it’s always nice to have company. Sara outdid herself with a magnificent dinner. Awesome grilled beef tenderloin steaks, mashed potatoes, fancy green beans with viniagrette, and carrots with some tasty crust topping. Man, a glass of red wine before and a cup of coffee with a plum torte after, and I am ready for the Rapture, folks. Just kill me now cuz it can’t get any better than this. Oh, my, my plump tart, you are amazing. [ This last sentence is frivolous word play and may not be held against me in a court of law.] Awesome.

The baby Jesus, as the story goes, was born in a little barn structure in Bethlehem on a night like this, except it was Israel 2,012 or so years ago during the Roman Empire. He didn’t get an awesome dinner or a nice warm house to enjoy. No lights on a tree or presents beneath it. All that came much later, a display of materialism to celebrate the coming of the divine into our world. It’s an odd perversion to celebrate the eternal divine with the perishing material…if we do not love as God loved us. In the Gospel of John, perhaps the most famous scripture of all says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus was a gift to humanity, the most precious, excruciatingly difficult, and most unearned gift (grace) to give. He is the proof of God’s compassionate love for human beings. In the story of Abraham and his son Isaac, God spared that human sacrifice after Abraham had determined to go through with it. He was ready to kill his son to obey God, but God held him back, not asking for the corporal completion once He saw the spiritual compliance of Abraham. And I suppose this is what the point of us recreating Jesus’ birthday with presents is all about: it comes down to being spiritually compliant with God.

What does spiritual compliance look like? Well, if we look at the Holy Family as our guide, we find humility. What humble folks moving about with few expectations and fewer possessions! Obedience is crystal clear. Mary and Joseph obeyed the earthly and heavenly authorities even in their discomfort. They did not whine or complain of their lot; they complied with God’s will as well as the will of Caesar, like Jesus would do later. He would complete the law not destroy it. Loyalty to one’s words and promises is brilliantly displayed. Joseph honored his word to marry his betrothed young virgin fiancée, and Mary held fast to God’s words and His promise. Yes, it sounded crazy and felt shameful, I’m sure, in that society.

Imagine a pregnant homeless girl and her boyfriend at the cold weather shelter claiming to be carrying God’s son. I’d think “delusional”, I’m certain. But if twelve years later their child was instructing the local pastors on God’s word at their monthly interdenominational breakfasts, I’d wonder. “Isn’t this the kid who was born at the shelter?” And 30 years later if I saw him being baptized in the Conococheague Creek by his cousin Wild Boy John, and a voice spoke from above the skies of Chambersburg, “This is my son, in whom I’m well pleased. Listen to him”, I might have chewed on it for a while longer, wondering and pondering, “Could it be?”

Then later on, if this grown man began speaking to crowds, causing traffic jams and annoying the pastors at the interdenominational breakfast league, I might also lean in to hear his words, the kid from the shelter, all grown up. And the miracles– out performing the Salvation Army and no annoying bells. What would you do?

There would be a big gap for my intellect to consider– if this is the son of God, what am I doing on this side of the stream? Why am I not on his side, at his feet? When he walks through the projects and the funky alleys in town, why am I uncomfortable following? Because I was born in an antiseptic hospital and l live in a clean, warm house with gifts and food and beautiful family. I am comfortable and content. Why would I want to follow a man/child born in squalor and shame? And yet, he is comfortable with the high and learned and his eyes and voice reveal deep authority without trying to impress… he impresses deep into my heart.

Will I have to sacrifice my family and comforts to comply with God’s will? I don’t think so. I will have to be humble, obedient, loyal, determined, and unshame-able in my faith. I will fail, which only proves that I need Jesus. I can’t do life on my own. If I could, there would be no need for a savior. Humans have this innate ability known as sin that causes them to play with matches and set their lives on fire. We all do it, and we all need a savior to put out the messes and help us rebuild our ruined lives. Jesus comes quietly tonight, just like the snow. He covers all our sins and put out the fires we have started. What a wonderful quiet peace follows Him!


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