Conscientious people who desire to please God, often compensate for walled-off chambers of hopelessness and fear in our hearts by unwittingly substituting religious principles applied by our own force of will and personality. This is a natural energy replacement for that which our Father promises to supply by the presence and power of His Spirit within us. (Ask me sometime how I know this to be true. Yikes!) This is the essence of "legalism" and it is more destructive to the joyful liberty of our interactive fellowship with the Trinity, our fruitfulness and our witness for Jesus Christ in this world than we typically imagine. May the Holy Spirit come in 2014, help us become genuinely vulnerable before our loving Papa and graciously heal any unperceived fissures of self-strength, rejection and negation in our hearts that imprison us in a miserable form of Christianity. There is a better covenant for us because of who Jesus is and what He has done!
I never knew why the birth of Jesus was called the nativity--a bit
embarrassing after all these years. I figured it had some connection
to how we talk about someone's "native land". It comes from a Latin
root word that means "arisen from birth". It's the place of birthing.
John, in his gospel, is writing out of an understanding of the
incarnation of Christ being the inauguration or "the nativity" of a
"new genesis". "in the beginning"--The Father and The Word and The
Spirit, acting in a Trinitarian concert of love, brooded over the
chaos and brought forth the first creation. But now there is a
astounding new development in God's plan for the earth. The Father,
The Word and The Spirit are brooding again in Jn 1:14--conspiring to
incarnate their love--within a chaotic world--filled with brokenness,
pain, tragedy, injustice, hatred, war, man-made corrupted religion,
sin, guilt and shame...the result being the "new creation" with the
prototype of a "new humanity" present on the earth's stage...Jesus of
Nazareth. Immanuel--God with us...God become like us...a commentary on
His original design for humanity, His love for and enjoyment of
humanity (and even the fallen world we inhabit that yet reflects the
beauty of His original design) and His desired destiny for humanity.
Now...the Word becomes flesh--fully human as well a fully divine--
unimaginable, unheard of (except in cryptic ancient prophecies not
even fully understood by those through whom it flowed), a mystery and
miracle of the highest magnitude. the incarnation of Jesus points
profoundly to new birth, a new beginning, a new genesis, for the
inhabitants of the whole earth and ultimately for the earth
itself--"good news of great joy that will be for all the people"--as
the angels proclaimed to the shepherds.
When God sent His chosen King...the eternally begotten Son...into the
world, what was encoded in the message of it all? Mary prophesied the
essence of it in her inspired poem--the Magnificat--"He has shown
strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of
their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and
exalted those of humble estate...." (Luke 1:51-52) When God personally
entered this world in Christ, He came to put it right side up,
establish His justice and shed abroad His mercy by bringing down the
proud and arrogant and exalting the humble folk of the earth.
This mission is clearly portrayed in the nativity story. The
professional priest, Zechariah, responds with unbelief to Gabriel's
big news, while the simple young maiden welcomes the even more amazing
message to her with a spirit of trust and belief. The lowly shepherds
receive a divine visitation of angels proclaiming the secrets of the
kingdom of God while the "movers and shakers" of Jerusalem are left
out of the story. the elderly Simeon and Anna have the Spirit of God
on them with the power to discern and bless in the name of the Lord
and the religious elite are also bypassed and left out of the story.
Later on, mysteriously inspired wise men from the east go on a long
and costly pilgrimage to pay tribute to the foreign and humble infant
King, while the reigning king of the Jewish nation, is threatened and
murderously enraged simply by the fuzzy buzz about the birth of One
who would one day sit on David's throne by the will of God. it's a
story of unlikely heroes who were not great in their own eyes.
But the force that God exerts in bringing down the proud and exalting
the humble does not proceed from His anger, but from His amazing
kindness. He himself will model the way of humility. He will leave
behind the pristine beauties of heaven. He will enter the world
incognito. He will make Himself of no reputation. He will enter the
world as a vulnerable fetus--born to common folk--poor, oppressed,
unknown, but devout and faithful to their covenant with God. He will
come as a suffering Servant/King. God the Almighty will come to His
own creation as a humble king...and personally bear the heavy pains
afflicting His precious creation.
This reveals an amazing and compelling truth about the God of the
scriptures...the one and only true God is humble in nature. when the
logos calls us to humble ourselves, it comes out of the ethos and
pathos of His own willingness to humble Himself. and...if He can and
would do such a thing, how can we reasonably hold on to our pride--in
whatever form it shows itself. there's an amazing reality about
humility...we can choose it no matter what our situation. may we
choose it daily--even continually...for "God is opposed to the proud,
but gives grace to the humble."
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 ESV)
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a child of God, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual father, author, speaker and hope coach.