The vastness of a black night sky studded with heavenly lights is one of the strongest images in the Christmas story . . . shepherds watching their flocks by night, the glory of angelic hosts momentarily lighting the canopy of darkness, magi coming from a far country guided by a star, Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie, above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
There is poetry here, the dark field and vast distances of outer space portraying the journey God has taken in order to satisfy the foremost intention of His heart — a relationship in which His Love does not just burn within Him but finds expression to and reciprocation from a race of creatures bearing His image, capable of understanding His heart and mind, knowing Him even as they are known by Him.
This is sheer impossibility . . . except for God . . . except for the journey He is taking.
His journey toward us began before time. His longing for this relationship propelled the explosion of swirling galaxies and burning stars into deepest outer space. He rejoiced as He brought forth the earth, and He was tender in His creation of us who were made in His image.
All of creation bears testimony to Him, but the unique testimony His heart sought, the thing He has always been working for . . . was a race of image-bearers who would receive His love and freely love Him back.
It is easy to feel love, to have it inflame your breast, to glow with it, to proclaim it. But at this stage love is immature, incomplete, not really love until it has passed its test.
The love of God infused the-garden-two, but their reciprocation failed its test. They had no idea of the journey God had made to get to this place, and what hung on their choice. Their love — their life — paled before the dark persuasion of the one who suggested that God was withholding from them. They chose to believe ill of God instead of loving Him. Treachery was in the air as their unique opportunity to bear testimony to His loving goodness fell into obscurity. . . and the light that was in them went out.
In the somber silence of shocked creatures surrounding the throne of heaven, a knowing look passed between Father and Son. It would cost them greatly, but real love will surrender its life if it means the beloved can live.
Sin had made a terrible jagged tear in those two human souls, and the light of their being bled out. Darkness plied their minds putting them in constant suspicion of God’s motives, alienating them from Him, pitting them against Him and each other. One son murdered the other as the human race entered its downward spiral. But in all of this, God’s Spirit never abandoned them.
The record reveals how the divine dialogue never stopped seeking man, bringing words of life to him . . . supplying a temporary measure of grace to his ever-fragile ability to identify God and recognize His voice in his heart.
Here and there, faith found a footing, love of God would burn in a man . . . giving testimony of God’s goodness . . . and the ache in God’s heart would be eased.
But the divine dialogue could not restore what mankind had lost. They were incapable of being the image bearers they were meant-to-be, with the capacity to understand the mind and heart of God, receiving His love and loving Him back.
What I am about to say may startle some. But the gospel preached by many Christians is a message far more concerned with our being saved than God’s foremost intention being satisfied . . . with what we gain rather than the attainment of what God has always been working for. Yes, Jesus crossed the the dark chasm and immeasurable distance between God and man to be incarnated as a baby in a virgin’s womb, emptying Himself of the glory and power He had with the Father, becoming weak and vulnerable, to die as a man upon the cross — ending the power of sin — love giving its life so the beloved could live.
1 Tim 1:15
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
BUT that is not the whole gospel. Hear the second half of the message, as Paul declared it, driven by the realization that Christ in us was the only way that God could accomplish “the impossibility” of what Love has always been working for.
I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints . . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
Christ in you — think about this for a moment. This is what He crossed the gulf to accomplish. The cross, the blood that save you — precious beyond words, agony of God that never ceases to wrench my heart. But love’s aim does not stop there.
Jesus in you is what makes everything God is working for possible. Jesus in you makes you capable of understanding God’s heart and mind, of receiving and reciprocating His love, of knowing Him even as you are known. Jesus in you means that the journey God began before time is attaining His heart’s longing at last.
There was no room at the inn for the baby to be born . . . Do you hear the intimate question there? . . . Is there room for My longing to be brought forth in you?
This Christmas, what will you see when you look up at the night sky? Will you take in the beauty of the dark expanse and think on the journey God has taken? Will you embrace the sheer wonder of The One who thought up and made possible His being in you?
The rock solid reality of Jesus within us transforms us into a creature capable of the relationship sought foremost by God’s heart.
May this coming year be the one in which you, more than ever, realize your place among those who bear His image . . . bearing His testimony in yourself . . . the love between you and Him becoming the strength you need . . . the direction, protection, and power He gives. May this be the year in which your last doubt dies, as you find yourself fully able to commune with His heart and mind — because of Jesus in you — teaching you to know Him even as you are known by Him.
God help me to be so given over, in love of You,
that my life becomes a burning testimony to You.