December 24, 2022 (Christmas Eve 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“While they were there, the time came for her Child to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2.6-7)
Where have we made room for Christ to be born in us? In 1744, Charles Wesley wrote a hymn that has long been an Advent and Christmas worship favorite. Its first line delivers the singular truth of what this season is all about: Come thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Your people free. That God would so choose this means of fulfilling His promise to save us from our sins and reconcile us into the unabated presence is nothing short of wondrous, miraculous and immaculate. But, as in all our Christmas celebration without the readiness of receiving what is the purpose of giving? If the message mentioned above is authentic and heartfelt it speaks of the receiver ready to receive. It does not speak of the giver ready to give. How long has God waited to give us what we truly desired most?
And when did we know we actually desired that most precious gift? In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve waited for what they feared most. If they had known they would actually fear it, obviously they had no idea what real fear was, then they might have enjoyed heaven’s bliss on earth the full measure of their unending days. If they had a real sense of fear before giving in to temptation, then they would not have given in to temptation. If they had not given, then what would they have received? Who among us has considered that question? If Eve had said “no” to the Serpent would he have turned to the silent and lurking Adam and contrived some seduction to offer him? What if Adam had stopped playing the role of voyeur and accepted that of protector? Doesn’t the Word declare “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” It worked for Jesus in the Wilderness following His baptism by John to “fulfill all righteousness.” Wouldn’t it have worked for Adam in that earthly paradise? What if they had said “no” to Satan and “yes” to God? What if they hadn’t given “room” to let evil be born in them and thus through them for all generations? What would God have given them for their obedience? Or would the sense of spiritual power which had created them continue to instruct them and build them up into the full measure and stature of the Christ in whose image they had been made? We certainly have no idea. But, we may conjecture an answer based on what God did give them for acting against His Word.
You see we, Adam and Eve, never feared God because they did not know fully the expressed power of God. They had no knowledge of fear, death, separation, alienation, hunger, thirst, sorrow, crying, pain or suffering in the Garden. They had no angst, malice, lust, jealousy or longing for what they didn’t have in the Garden. They didn’t know it until they didn’t have it. One bite of doubt became a banquet table of a world they never really wanted. This is what sin gives us and it seems we are most certainly ready to receive it. But, now that we have it as the world freely gives it we long for that “something more and something else.” It can only be provided as it was always available: by the very One who made all life possible. It comes with a price, however. We must be ready to “give of ourselves” in preparation for what God is ready to “give of Himself.” It is as if in our desire for self and thus opening ourselves up to receiving sin into our lives we exchanged the spiritual truth of our existence for the spiritual truth of our anti-existence. In our innocence, we live for God and toward Him. In our guilt, we live either in running away from God or chasing after what we think God is that we cannot be. The hunger and thirst for life becomes unsatiable only when we fail to surrender all that we are to all that God is.
Don’t you think that Mary, as she felt the birth pangs growing inside her with greater intensity, wasn’t laying the foundation for Charles Wesley’s beloved hymn? Hear that first line again, “Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Your people free.” Can you hear her singing that?Perhaps, Joseph, as he watched his betrothed in her innocence and faithful commitment to serve the Lord with holiness, boldness and gladness prayed the same: Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Your people free. And how many people who knew of the promise of God to save His people from the bitterness of that first bite of doubt in their own lives were crying out “Come thou long-expected Messiah, born to set Your people free.” Even now, as we prepare our own “birthing remembrance of that baby born in Bethlehem,” is it as moving and memorable as the remembrances of our own children’s births? Most all of us have that story to reflect on in our lives. But, we had no idea when we conceived that first born what the experience was going to be like. All the stories and Lamaze classes in the world cannot fully prepare you, especially the mother, for what was about to happen! We don’t really know it until we are in it, immersed fully in “giving” what we have received.
So what now? As we are on the Eve of this year’s birthing of the remembrance of the Lamb who has come into the world to set His people free from sin, what are we feeling? What are we preparing for? What are we giving in worship of the King of kings, Lord of lords, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace upon whose shoulders the true governance of the world rests so that God’s justice shall rule over our lives instead of humanity’s sense of justification? Will love reign or will Satan rule the day enjoying the momentary satisfaction of our lust to give and receive that which cannot satisfy? Will Jesus come and the Devil flee? Or will God remain at a distance and Satan draw nearer? Let’s revisit the second verse of Charles Stanley’s beloved hymn and consider for ourselves what is “borne” by us this Christmas day and make room for Him:
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
Father, be born in us again today so that You may be borne by us into all the world and know the true and only gift that satisfies our heart, mind, body and soul: Jesus our Christ. AMEN.