But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
December 10, 2018
Dear Family in Christ Jesus:
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” I sometimes wonder where the incarnation would happen were it to occur today? Would God choose to grace the lonely stable of some rural community, or would Jesus be born in a ghetto or a suburb? I am not sure that our bent toward worldly thinking would be content to allow or expect a stable bred messiah whose family might not have the resources (omit comma) or the inclination for his family to share the pictures on Facebook. As Os Guinness observes:
[Worldly thinking] develops Christians with an eye for the quantitative rather than the qualitative, for externals rather than inner reality, for performance rather than relationship, for the shallow rather than the deep, for evangelism in terms of the number of “decisions” rather than discipleship and growth in character, for the bandwagon rather than the Bible, for popularity rather than principle, and with a greater sensitivity to horizontal pressure than to vertical authority.
Guinness, Os. Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times
(pp. 43-44). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
It is about this concept “from the inside out” that we get confused. Jesus came that worship, faith, and true life might be a transformation from the inside out. We too often reverse this by allowing externals like Christmas busyness, music, or lights to affect us from outside in. Our faith is not simply what we feel, desire, or even want. Jesus shed the externals by being born in a manger to nondescript parents. He was uncomely in so many ways, but that was God’s intent. No flash, no "bling," just God who came like one of us ordinary, struggling, average humans in a “blue collar” world. Isn’t that amazing?
To me it is amazing because it is so out of line with what I would expect. Wouldn’t Jesus have a “leg up” if he had been born to privilege? Imagine what he could have done as an emperor’s son? If for nothing more, Jesus would have commanded immediate respect because of his princely office, but he would have been extraordinary, not like me. I would honor him because of his robes and his birthright, not because of an inner connection common to all of humanity, the very image of God who comes to claim all of God’s own, from the inside out.
What is even more amazing is just what the ordinary can do when it gets transformed from the inside out. The earliest of Jesus’ followers were as humble as his birth surroundings, yet it was this “rag tag” crew that would go on to transform an empire from the inside out. They would go before magistrates and emperors with the inside out message of the Gospel that the first would be last, the poor would inherit the earth, and a legally condemned man, crucified as a criminal, would save them all. Despite the odds, the seeds grew, no matter how dark the time; the lives of those who felt the pull from the inside out followed to the transformation of the world.
We too face unsure times. We also feel the worldly thinking urging us to follow a different agenda in the halls of power. However, we too are children of that manger, that humble sign that faith is a journey from the inside out, not just for us or for some, but for the transformation of the world. As you come to the manger this Christmas, enjoy the lights, the music, the food, but always remember that the real journey is the one you make when you welcome the Christ Child into your heart and let him work his way out into our world. Merry Christmas.
Yours in Christ,