We have been waiting; we have been watching; we have been preparing, and hope has come. Emmanuel, God with us. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. A promise is fulfilled! A promise of love that began before time as we know it.
For a second, I imagined what may have followed the scene in the humble stable. First, I imagine all the excitement and joy of those who traveled to bear witness to the splendor of the birth of the Messiah. Then I imagine Joseph and Mary, socially saturated, needing rest, and baby Jesus needing to be fed. Finally, everyone tired after the visitation will turn and head home.
I think about the conversations on the way out. “That was so awesome! Good to see mother and baby looking so well. I hope the gifts we brought are what they needed.
And maybe there are questions like…What does this mean? What do we do now? Do you feel different? What should we do tomorrow?
Would those who traveled to this momentous occasion go back to their everyday lives? Would they be transformed? Do we feel transformed? What do we do now? How do we hold onto the joy that we felt just moments ago?
Happiness is a condition of circumstance, but joy is a condition of the heart. Joy comes not from achieving what we long for—-but from moving toward it. Transformation takes place not from our willpower and action but from allowing grace and love to fill the places of our hearts that feel most unlovable. And joy comes when we accept that we are part of a whole that began at creation—God – us – community.
In John’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus has always been. “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was at the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and not one thing came into being without him. Life has come into being in him, and life was the light of all people.”
Jesus has always been with us. Yet this baby, vulnerable and small, born into the risky business of being human, changes everything. The moment in the modest stable was a happy one, but the joy that lasts beyond this moment comes from the continual movement toward that which we long for. God is always moving toward us. So we, longing for unconditional, vulnerable love, must also move into this risky business of being human, vulnerable, and loving.
David Benner, in his book “Surrender to Love,” says
“Regardless of what you have come to believe about God based on your life experience, the truth is that when God thinks of you, love swells in his heart, and a smile comes to his face. God bursts with love for humans. He is far from being emotionally uninvolved with his creation. God’s bias toward us is strong, persistent and positive. The Christian God chooses to be known as love, and that love pervades every aspect of God’s relationship with us.”
Jesus comes as a child with a heart wide open, loving, and forgiving. This child carries transformational love.
Receiving love while trying to earn it is not transformational. We often act as if we have some control over how much we are loved. But God’s Love for us has everything to do with who he is, not who we are. He loves us not because of who we are; —–we are because he loves us. And he pursues us with great desire and hope that we will surrender to His Love.
We will make mistakes, and those mistakes can make us feel unlovable. Those places where we feel most unlovable cause us pain. But pain is not the enemy.
It leads to self-discovery.
It leads to a deep need for God.
It leads to a need for others.
Mistakes are made, and we will continue to make them. However, the transformation that began at the birth of our savior was the transformation of the heart and what motivates us to move about in the world the way we do.
In Galatians, we hear that God sent the spirit of his son into our hearts. “Crying, Abba, Father!” We are no longer slaves but children of God. Jesus transforms our motivation from fear of discipline to the pursuit of love and surrendering to it. Surrendering to love begins in the heart and expresses itself in our behavior.
A child, this child, teaches us how to love. Love opens our hearts to joy.
We are no longer under disciplinary law. We are no longer slaves. Our actions are no longer centered on avoiding sin, no longer motivated by self-protection, fear, and seeking approval.
WE are children of God. We are heirs. We are created in love, by love, for love. When we live into this love, our motivation for action becomes love. Our actions become a movement toward God and each other.
Jesus didn’t come into the world afraid he didn’t come into the world self-protecting. He came in vulnerable and small and his parents, motivated by love, set out to provide for this child, who will give his whole life to provide for us an example of what love as a motivator looks like.
Surrender in safety, abandon fear, control, and unworthiness.
Practice gratitude, compassion, courage.
Intimacy is vulnerable. Love and allow the joy that comes–to shine into the dark places of your heart and mind. Then, like the child wrapped in his parents’ embrace, trust everything will be okay.
Love is the light that shines in the darkness. Jesus is the light of the world. With him, and all things came into being, and not one thing came into being without him. In the presence of light, darkness cannot exist.
Joy comes from knowing that love is present in all things. Therefore, we must be in pursuit, and whatever else happens, love will prevail.
In verse 4 of Psalm 147, we hear just how detailed God’s Love is; “He counts the number of the stars and calls them all by their names.” No matter how many people have walked this earth, we each have value and purpose. We each can bring light by loving.
The star in being a star brings light into the world. We being children of light, bring light into the world. As we return to day-to-day routines, we may continue to do the same activities. However, our actions are no longer acts of will; they are a response to love.
What has been concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. We have moved from hope to joy! We are transformed!
Like Mary and Joseph, we are asked to respond to love with love.
Love has come. Emanuel God with us, vulnerable and open.
Will you cherish, nurture and help him grow?
Will you surrender to love and let love transform you?
Will you allow the joy that fills your heart to penetrate deeply?
Will you go out into the world as light?
When the risky business of being human seems too much, love holds you, protects you, strengthens you, and cherishes you just as you are.