Christmas is so wonderful in terms of its romantic appeal: Lovely snow covered trees, brilliant lights, warmth, loved ones, & “Happy Birthday Jesus” Facebook posts. And I do love all of those descriptors…but I’ve been a grouch the last few days. Mostly on account of my kids. I’ve been harsh at times and far from grateful for Christ’s incarnation, his descent from royalty to messy humanity, and his completely selfless acts, though I’ve conveniently made mention of these themes in my mealtime prayers for several days now.
But tonight after a day in which I justified myself a loving and selfless father, braving cold temps to help my youngest attempt some skateboarding and observing my middle son’s enjoyment of archery and of course, “sacrificing” my social media time in favor of holding my infant son and attempting to calm him thus giving my wife some reprieve, I recognized my true selfish identity. I am still in the phase of making myself do things I’d rather not in the name of generosity. It basically remains my duty. I derive little joy from the very minute & forced “sacrifices” I make. Because I know I’m forcing them. I also know how many sacrifices I’m foregoing during the course of any given day due to my selfishness.
The Lord has put on my heart for the past several days Isaiah 53:2-5, and then Yesterday’s Christmas Eve sermon about Jesus’ birth being good news for all people (Luke 2:10). I combined the two passages into a Christmas Facebook post of sorts tonight. Those verses provide such a wonderfully simple, yet, ironic vision of Christ & God’s purpose in him for the world. Jesus came to fulfill a grand purpose. He came to live among his beloved people before laying down his life on his own accord out of obedience to the Father in order to bring reconciliation to all who believe between them and the Father. He obviously teaches us much in the way of selflessness & sacrifice. Perhaps he too forced himself or willed himself to do some of the selfless things he did, but I find it more likely that he was able to do those things on account of his relationship to and reliance on his Father. In this light, it’s easier to see one of several reasons why Jesus had no form or majesty that we should see him and no appearance that we should take pleasure in him: he was sacrificial. He came for the lost and the dirty and the nerdy. He engaged in the hard work of reconciliation to the incredible degree that he was willing to die for it. He didn’t do this by way of military might, political connections, and nor did he play his “God Card” in order to force people to be reconciled to God. Had he utilized these techniques, surely he’d have been regarded as more legitimate by the societal elite, but his kingdom had more in common with the life cycle of the mustard seed. And that’s how it is supposed to be.
I’m grateful and so fortunate to have this portrait of Christ’s mission, but in honesty this knowledge places new responsibility on me to take up my cross in the way Jesus did and to carry out the hard work he performed with joy and without expectation of notoriety. I pray that I might.