“While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man–though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die.” Rom. 5:6-7 (RSV)
I am sitting on a train to London Dec. 17th as I type this. I think I may start taking trains just to get rest, because man they are lovely. At any rate, this post is for all who come across it to read, but in a particular way for my gracious donors that have supported the mission I am on this year.
It seems odd to reflect on the death of Christ when His birth is so near. Perhaps odd isn’t the right word. It can be uncomfortable. The most tragic deaths seem to be the death of young innocent people. Thinking about the death of Christ when we are looking at just a baby is unsettling. This is good. If you choose to follow the Lord you will find that frequently He places you in uncomfortable situations. “Get used to different” as Jesus says in The Chosen.
Yesterday was the conclusion of December Retreat for the missionaries that I supervise. Unlike the other times that we have a time of training, December retreat is unique in that it is not content heavy and very relaxed. It is a time of rest after a busy first half of ministry. Regardless of the season, Men’s and Women’s session is always a part of a training time.
In men’s session we reflected with two images that you can see below.
Two very different images. We reflected together with the two images side by side on two separate occasions. To my surprise the majority of the men were drawn to reflect with the monk contemplating the skull. I figured it’d be an even split if anything, but there was something about the painting that drew the men to it. Where we are going can only be recognized when we know where we’ve come from. Similarly it would be nothing short of ignorant to think that we are going to make it through life without dying. It is a shared experience through all humanity. Death is essential to recognize when looking at where we come from, the beginning of life. This is one of the reasons infants are so precious. They have just begun living their lives and we want them to live as long as they can. See how Our Blessed Mother holds the child Jesus in her arms? In that embrace I don’t think she is actively thinking about His death, I do think that she is loving that which is most precious among us.
So what am I saying? I have yet to make a clear point intentionally.
You cannot stop the birth of Christ. You cannot stop Him dying on the cross for your sins. You could scream till you’re blue in the face begging Him to not make such a sacrifice for someone as worthless as you. To not come in such profound humility as a baby and begin the journey to calvary. The only thing that will come of this scream session is damaged vocal chords.
We must approach the manger with the end in mind without necessarily dwelling on it. It is an insult to welcome Jesus Christ, LORD at birth and attempt to ignore that He came to die and save us from sin. Do not minimize the birth of the Godman to a festive occasion of joy void of sacrifice. Yes Christmas is a joyful time and rightfully so. By no means do I intend to make Christmas a depressive occasion. Rather, let our joy increase as we recognize the gravity of Our Savior being born. Let us welcome Him with open arms and the doors of our hearts swung wide. His first breath shakes the earth as the evil one, the world, and the flesh shrivel recognizing that The King has begun His conquest. He will not cease till He has marched into the home of the enemy and robbed him of his throne. Will you provide Him with a place to rest on His journey?
Brothers and Sisters, open your hearts to Jesus radically this Christmas. He WILL receive you. You can do nothing to keep Him from loving. He will love all the way to calvary and beyond. I have to keep re-learning this lesson. I often think, “This is it, I’ve finally done it. He will see how ugly I really am and leave me. I have ruined His mission of salvation.” That is a thought more prideful than most. Please learn from my mistakes. Look at the child Jesus in His mother’s arms. He is perfect. He loves perfectly and does The Father’s will perfectly. He will save you, should you respond to grace, perfectly.
I’m scheduling this to post on Christmas so a very merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. Eat, drink, and be merry; glorify God by welcoming Him into your heart and then recognizing Him in the hearts of those near you.