For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ~John 3:16-17
A GREAT verse about love, most definitely...but Advent??? Hmmm...
I think back to when MY first child was born. Vividly. I remember every beep of the machines my wife was hooked up to. I remember her whimpers and groans and yelps as she worked through her contractions and labor pains. I remember the frenzy when the time finally came to push. I remember my wife actually reaching down and pulling our daughter, Clover, out with her own two hands (I KNOW, RIGHT???) I remember immediately after Clover's birth, Tina and I locking eyes and saying to each other without words "We can do ANYTHING. Together." And after all the nurses and all the grandparents visiting and all the tears of joy and the footprints and the paperwork and the first bath and the swaddling...Tina fell asleep and I was just...there. With this baby. MY baby.
It was early January. The snow was falling outside. I swear I could hear every flake hit the ground outside. I was experiencing my own Silent Night at about 11:00 in the morning. And as I looked into my beautiful, puffy, smooshy-faced baby, the last thing I was thinking was, "How sad...you're going to die one day."
Do you think that's what Mary and Joseph were thinking? I mean, they knew all the scriptures. They were aware of all the prophecies. And when an angel of the Lord came to each of them separately with the same hard-to-believe-but-completely-true reality that their soon-to-be baby was to be THAT baby...what must have been running through their mind? As they journeyed to Bethlehem? As Mary labored in that stable? As they laid eyes on Jesus for the first time?
We can't really help it. We know how the life of Jesus begins. We know how it ends. And we know how it, miraculously begins AGAIN. So it's almost second nature to us to have this touch of sorrow in the back of our minds as we dive deep into the Christmas story during Advent. It's hard for us to think of a little baby and know what lies before Him. We want to protect Him. We want to shield Him from the horror and hatred and pain and suffering because as adults, that instinct is ALSO second nature.
We are too familiar with Isaiah 53:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (v. 5)
or this one:
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth, he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep, before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. (v. 8-9)
That's HEAVY. Plain and simple. And you better believe Joseph and Mary were well aware that THESE verses were talking about THIS baby that was just moments old, beautiful, puffy, and smooshy-faced. Just like mine. Just like yours.
But I don't believe this was anywhere near the forefront of their minds on this night. Nope. She was overwhelmed by LOVE, not just for this baby, but for her Heavenly Father as well.
His mother looked into His eyes and thought, what will His first words be? What foods will He like? Will He be outgoing or shy? How will His laugh sound? Will He love working with His dad?
Who will He grow to be?
So, this Advent, TODAY, let's immerse ourselves in the story of Jesus's birth as it happened 2000 years ago, where this brand new family of three is. That's where this all culminates. All the hope, all the peace, all the joy, all the love. Sorrow didn't really have any place there and then. It was just a beautiful miracle, THE MOST beautiful miracle; one that Angels shouted about from the literal heavens, and wise men traveled hundreds of miles just to acknowledge and honor.
The significance of this birth was that before Jesus was to die a death He was to LIVE A LIFE, a life that left a perfect practical purposeful path for literally everyone to follow. John 3:16-17 doesn't specifically mention Jesus's death...we have just heavily implied that bit over time. So when we read this passage, let's read it with LIFE implied. Jesus saves not just by death on the cross but by the life He lived as one of us on this Earth.
Thank you for life. Thank you for your Son and the life He lived. Thank you for this overwhelming act of love. May We carry it in our hearts always.