The fog on Winding Ridge last week made me think about the murkiness that has become part of the Advent season, to be honest, my Advent season. Instead of focusing on what matters about Christmas, the reality of Emmanuel, God with us, anyone’s vision and actions this season can get lost in the fog. Our sight, often skewed by a mere mist, can blur the details of the very familiar Christmas story of Bethlehem.
Turning in another direction allows me to see the Christmas flag, but a snowman asking “Do you see what I see?” still offers a blurry picture at best.
Reality requires the clarity to think of a stable that stinks rather than artistic renderings that evoke sweet-scented hay. How about the clarity to think of a young virgin giving birth in a cold cave? I recently learned that the word womb means viscera. Now that’s not captured in the beloved paintings of a haloed Mary cradling her firstborn.
The greatest point in life, the one that demands clear vision, devoid of all mist and confusion, is the incarnation. Jesus, Son of God, condescends to take on human flesh, leave the glory of heaven, and make himself nothing for the likes of you and me.
We often read from Luke 2 during Advent, but perhaps Philippians 2:5-8 provides the most breath-taking jewel that sparkles with diamond clarity about the Christ child.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus is God. Consider the reaction of Christ’s contemporaries when He declared this to a group seeking a clear statement of His identity. “I and the Father are one,” is His brief response in John 10:30. The listeners’ response is to pick up stones to kill Him for blasphemy.
Earlier, in John 8:58, Christ declares, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Again the response? Listeners pick up stones to kill Him.
The writer of Hebrews opens chapter 1 with a declaration that includes, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
After considering these bold statements that Christ is God, that He pre-existed the patriarch Abraham, and that he shares the radiance of God’s glory, we do well to ponder what Jesus did with his position.
Looking back to Philippians 2, we need the lucidity to see how Christ chose to live with His credentials and power. He willing gave up his heavenly glory. Unlike Eve, who fell for Satan’s enticement to grasp being God, Christ chose to be born a helpless baby, giving up His glory. As if being trapped in time and space were not enough, Christ came as a servant, not a conquering king or a political anarchist to overthrow Rome. He would die on a Roman cross, the cursed death of one who died upon a tree. Triumphantly, however, He would rise and be restored to His glory.
Clear the hazy vision of our hearts, Lord. While there is much fun associated with the Christmas season that turns on warm memories and feelings, don’t allow us to get lost in the hazy cloud when we actually consider Christ this Christmas. Take our hands; remove our veiled eyes; replace our stony hearts with fleshly ones. Take us along a different road, a clearer path, for this clarification is too important to get lost in the fog.