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When I was a young child, I took Christmas very seriously. It’s not that I don’t today, but it’s very different. I would peer intently at the presents and shake them in fruitless attempts to guess at what was inside. This is so corny, but my brother, sister and I used to have races from our beds, flying downstairs to see who could make it to the tree first.
When I grew up, the serious anticipation changed focus from presents to people. As I look toward Christmas, I think of gatherings with loved ones. My memory crowds with scenes from the little houses of my grandmothers, packed like sardines with uncles, aunts and cousins. I can still hear the cacophony of many animated conversations going on at the same time. There were stupid jokes, good natured teasing and explosive laughter. There were card games (Pitch or Rook were the games of choice) that included a lot of lighthearted attempts at cheating and the “trash talk” that accompanied them. When it was time to eat, there were more people crowded around those little dining room tables than would seem possible. There were overflowing amounts of food and love to go around. These days, too much geography gets in the way of gathering as we once did. But in our own home, we head home right after Christmas Eve Service and gather round our table laden with crackers, cheese, meat and relishes. The four of us play board and card games, and perhaps watch a movie if there’s time. Though the number of people is smaller, the overflowing food and love are the same. As we mature our true Christmas presents aren’t wrapped with paper. They’re wrapped in the human flesh of those we love.
That’s what I think about most during this time of year. Christmas is all about the Incarnation, the Son of God come to deliver His love wrapped in human flesh. Human words can’t express the power of such love. Have you pondered on how much Jesus had to limit Himself to come and dwell among us? An omnipotent, eternal God, who is everywhere and knows all things, chose to confine Himself to a frail, mortal body. That body was limited to puny, human strength and was subject to pain and death. He let Himself experience the hunger, thirst, and fatigue He’d never known in eternity past, and He deeply felt the hurt of human betrayal and rejection. Why would He go through all that? He knows that from our perspective, there is no better way to communicate than in the flesh. We have the priceless treasure of God’s self-revelation in Scripture, but Old Testament history shows that His people were still missing the boat. Words on a page communicated stories about God’s work for His people in the past and spelled out His expectations for faithful living. By the time Jesus came to us, it was obvious that we were incapable of following those written commands. So He came to teach and to demonstrate what Kingdom living looks like, in terms we can understand. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Additionally, His first coming points to where we will end up in the culmination of His plan: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev. 21:3) How amazing to think that the Incarnation of God’s love in the form of Jesus will lead us to a family reunion that will last forever! Until then, I hope you will use this Advent season to reflect on the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation. Remember that He also wants to wrap up His love in you, sending you forth to demonstrate it to the people in your life.
Your Brother and Servant,