“Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!
Messenger: ‘Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.'”–Luke 2:9-12 (The Voice version)
I can almost hear the urgency in the angel’s voice trying to calm the shock the shepherds experienced. The message God sent the angel to convey to the shepherds would change the way mankind related to God. Looking through the Old Testament, man seemed to filter life events, natural disasters, outcomes of wars through a lens of a wrathful God … a God who just waited for mankind to mess up so that He could unleash destruction on every infraction … a God who enjoys setting us up for failure. Even though that interpretation of God is misleading when we carefully read the prophets and many of the stories where God expresses His love of mankind and desire for relationship with us. So, as the birth of Jesus unfolds, God sends a messenger so that mankind cannot miss His heart for us:
GOD IS FOR US! GOD WANTS TO SET US UP FOR SUCCESS!
‘Don’t be afraid!’ The angel declares. Because up until that point, God terrified people. I think most of us continue to wait for the other shoe to drop with God. We know we can’t live up to His standards and hope He won’t notice us. We just need to keep our heads down. But, the angel comes and lifts up our heads to see Someone who is all smiles, warmth and delight. Someone who wants to show us how to aim for a higher goal than ‘just don’t mess up.’ Someone who will teach us how to live freely, without shame, without fear–how to be our true selves without the false protection of socially acceptable personas. Someone who is accessible and not so intimidating that we try to hide from Him. Someone who beckons us to His presence.
Someone who is … a baby?
God amazes me in all of His eternally surprising ways. Who else would have thought that taking on the form of a human was a good idea to show Himself to the world? And not just human-form, but actually starting from the beginning of human life. Choosing to be totally human. Experiencing life as we experience it. Yet showing us in that humanity a fuller way to live.
A way to access the image of God that we bear.
A way to intertwine the divine with the created.
A way to live in humility (not humiliation) and without shame.
Wow! That is good news! That should well up within us great joy! Everyone gets access to God. The angels told the shepherds that God wants everyone to succeed. Shepherds, who had a low rank in society. Telling the lowly of this awe-inspiring plan makes my heart pound in expectancy because God … once again … levels the playing field by entrusting the unveiling of His glorious plan to the least likely members of society. The thought leaves me breathless.
So, as we prepare for Christmas this week, may we all experience the pulse-quickening anticipation of God’s favor in our lives. Embrace the good news with great joy that God liberates us to succeed in relationships … in loving God … in loving ourselves … in loving others!
Merry Christmas, everyone!
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