We’re almost there! Almost at the end of this Season of Advent culminating in a worldwide celebration of Jesus’ arrival. Through these weeks, we’ve focused not only on the gifts but on the hard facts of this complex love story whose details scandalously defied just about everything imaginable for a religious law-abiding Jew. Pete Greig, in his highly recommended (by yours truly) book, Dirty Glory: Go Where Your Best Prayers Take You, limns it out for us in fresh language: The Word didn’t just pretend to become flesh. He wasn’t fraternizing with humanity from a morally superior plane. Jesus became sin for us, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the staggering message of Christ’s incarnation: God’s glory became dirt so that we – the scum of the earth – might become the very glory of God. This then is our creed. We believe in the blasphemous glory of Immanuel; ‘infinity dwindled to infancy,’ as the poet once said. We believe in omnipotence surrendering to incontinence, the name above every other name rumoured to be illegitimate. We believe that God’s eternal Word once squealed like a baby and, when eventually he learned to speak, it was with a regional accent. The Creator of the cosmos made tables, and presumably he made them badly at first. The Holy One of Israel got dirt in the creases of his hands.
My guess is that the God who chooses to birth Immanuel in a barn to an unwed teenager and sends out the birth announcement to a group of unnamed shepherds after midnight when the rest of the world is asleep, is not given to having the vapors when observing our circuitous walk of faith, our unseemly lack of obedience or our all-too-fleshly tendencies. I agree with David Benner’s assessment of us as believers: 1. we are deeply loved; 2. we are deeply sinful; 3. we are in the process of being redeemed and restored. We quickly latch on to the second point but it is the first that needs to be savored, with the third providing the grace space needed for the multitude of in-between bits. Further, I think would be a good idea, each time we write the word ‘grace,’ that we do it in capital letters, in red ink – GRACE. It seems to more accurately present what we’ve been given. A rather ludicrous (read woefully inadequate) comparison between GRACE and our sin might be – all the water in all the oceans, rivers, streams and lakes in the world representing God’s contribution, and one single teardrop representing ours. That may not be very helpful as an image, but the moment we are finally able to ‘get’ the profound thing God did to us in Jesus, the ‘way’ He made where there was no way, we, too, may ‘rejoice with exceeding great joy.’ CAUTION: excessive and accelerated discipleship may erupt, causing knots in stomachs from all the laughter, weeping from joy’s overflow, weight gain from all the feasting, renewed strength like the eagle’s, and redeemed fitness from all the love-inspired Kingdom involvement. May it be said of us. PD