Friday, December 29, 2006

Unexpected Grace

My neighbors packed up their yard filled with Santas and snowmen. The shopping pages now blast New Year’s Day sales. The world has moved on from its brief fling with Christmas. Yet, those who celebrate the feast continue to roar in the echoing refrain of Glory to God in the highest.

Today is the fifth day of twelve-day feast, rejoicing in the miracle of the Incarnation of our Lord. And then comes Epiphany, an extended season for contemplating and celebrating the manifestation of the Son to the world. For many people in days gone by, Christmas carols would continue throughout Epiphany until February 2nd when the church celebrated the presentation of the Lord in the temple.

This year, my mind returns again and again the God’s coming in a way the no one could have anticipated and in a way that stirs the soul to awe. Here are a few thoughts that attempt to capture one theme that has been heavy in my heart:

The grace of God appears like an unexpected star on an uneventful night. Suddenly, light streams shower from a dark sky, and you step forward into the dawn of a coming Day.

The story of the nativity is the story of nighttime surprises. Gabriel greets an unexpecting Mary with the Word that brings new birth. Joseph’s dream awakens him to father the son of his Father above. The lonely shepherds behold a company of angels inviting them to come and see the Glory of God bursting out of heavens and into the earth. The heavenly drama beckons a few stargazers to leave behind an ancient world and behold the future made present.

While there are lessons to be learned from each story, these stories penetrate deeper than the moral truth of any Aesop’s fable. They illumine the ground upon which we tread. Each year we revisit Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, and the Wise Men, and one day we might just realize we’re in the middle of the same story.

Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men are not waiting for an invitation to Bethlehem. They do not anticipate God’s Word of favor to call them forth. Each of them are simply living their lives in the midst of countless other lives and countless other stories. They are not engaged in some heroic work; they are not calling down fire from heaven; they have no particular traits that will cause them to rise above the tapestry of history. Like their mothers and fathers before them, they were born, would live and eventually die with no particular lasting glory.

Suddenly, their common life is interrupted with a glory that exceeds the grasp of earthly minds. Suddenly God’s Word appears like favor, like new birth, like a sword of love that pierces the heart. Suddenly the light of morning grace awakens them, calls them to Bethlehem, and invites them to behold a new Day.

O come let us adore Him.

His glorious Word that sustains every living thing sounds in the cry of that baby in the manger. Halted in their journeys by this tiny vision of divine glory, the travelers can do nothing but worship. No words, no actions, no human ingenuity can add to the moment.

O come let us adore Him. Adore Him.

Jesus comes to dwell among us. Jesus comes to reveal the Father. Jesus comes to save His people from their sins. He enters history at a particular point in time through the womb of Mary. Yet, by His Spirit, He remains in history and continues to bring the Word of life to each of us.

The wondrous invitation to Bethlehem comes without warning and without expectation. In the middle of my dark night, His love surprised me like a sunrise casting its gentle glow over the surface of a black lake. In just a moment, the dark rippling water glowed with yellows and oranges and reds and blues and greens. The dawn overtook the night, and I stepped into the first light of a new Day.

And all I can do is worship.

O come let us adore Him. Adore Him. Adore Him.

I have more essays and reflections that I may or may not write this season. There is much to say and much to do. But at some point, when I pause and consider the splendor of that “wonderful, wonderful Day,” I am speechless. I am overwhelmed. I am falling before Him with a gratefulness that can never match His matchless grace.

O come let us adore Him. Adore Him. Adore Him. O Come let us adore Him.


Nicholas Cardot said...

Beautiful post! Well done. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! This is a great post! A great and vital reminder. Again, thank you!

Blessings in Christ Jesus!

John said...

Amen Doug! O Come let us adore Him!

Be encouraged.