Advent has been a time of expectation, waiting and painful longing. We have waited for God’s deliverance with perseverance and clear vision. The waiting has often been painful, but also mixed with fertile expectation.
Christmas brings us God’s answer to our waiting. If we have been waiting in broken faith, then we should be ripe for recognizing the way God reveals Himself. We remember that most people missed him when he came. Most people still miss him, blinded by worldly notions of God, glory and grace. Faith that is humble, broken and childlike will have eyes capable of seeing him.
He comes in a way that we never expected! As a weak baby boy who needs us to take care of him. He comes in our most vulnerable state, literally at our mercy. Yet, he never ceased to be truly God! This is one of the rich mysteries of Christmas.
Another mystery that captures my heart and mind this morning is the symbolic nature of the manger. Our Lord lies in a food trough made of rough wood (perhaps from the same wood as the cross, you never know) presenting himself as the food of the world.
“I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:32-35 NLT)
The wood manger holds the author of Life. Believing in him (not just in something he did or something he said) brings us squarely into the Life of God Himself. Further, just as the manger was made of wood held together by nothing other than the word of Jesus, so the wooden cross was held together by this same word. The solid reliability of physical matter, sustained by the faithfulness of God, provides the setting for God’s invasion of our world. The wooden manger holds the promise of life; the wooden cross holds the curse of death.
Merry Christmas, friends. May you find the real Jesus in your real life today, filled with frustrating family moments, exciting giving and receiving of gifts, feasting, grieving, alone or in the company of the masses. He knows where each of us is right now; he knows the way to meet us in that very place. He is Emmanuel, always within reach!