Monday, December 22, 2014

The Explosion of Christmas

(The necessary introduction)

An opening question: What is the biggest thing you can think of?
My mind (first and foremost) goes to mountains. They are so close around me, it seems natural. But there are bigger mountains than these. Everest is pretty big. Still, it’s not ocean big. And not Jupiter-big. Certainly not Sun-big, or Galaxy-big. And then there’s Universe-big. And for the geeky, Infinity-big.

Question two: What is the most powerful thing you can think of?
Lions. Bears. Blue Whales. Waterfalls. Tanks. Tornados. Missiles. Hurricanes. Nukes. Volcanoes. Gravity. The list goes on.

But there’s only one answer, really. And it is the same to both questions (and all of the others I cut out for the sake of brevity).
God is bigger. And more powerful. Than anything we can conceive of or grasp at. I have made the analogy before, and I shall make it again, that trying to comprehend Him is like tying to contain Niagara Falls in a little Dixie-cup.

Now this, I believe, is the best of starting places, and the briefest of introductions to bring me to the point of this post.
When we think of Christmas, what do we think of? Hopefully those of us with any form of Spiritual Meat on our Metaphorical Bones, can escape the smog of Santa and Trees and Traditions and such sentimentality as permeated our childhoods.
We think of Sweet Little Jesus Boy, Away in his Manger and furry-winged little angels (named Harold). We think of Naïve Nativities, cute little Marys and somewhat less cute Josephs, with the rosy-cheeked little Lord Jesus, smiling from his halo with a full head of hair and wide open eyes. (Yay! Donkeys! Sheep! Well-groomed Shepherds! A gift-giving plethora of multi-racial wise men!)
In the cases of most (at least in the case of myself), the images that come to mind are not the same as those listed above. Not mountains or oceans or galaxies, not waterfalls or volcanoes or explosions. Not universe-bigness and volcanic-power. Quaintness, maybe. That lilt of joy at the nostalgic arrival of Christmas again.
But bigness and power are what we should feel.
Try to imagine a Dixie-Cup, catching Niagara, containing it, every drop of its grandeur
Impossible, of course.
But a feeding trough—and more precisely, the loaf-of-bread-sized-squirming-pink-newborn-in-his-exhausted-mother’s-arms—contained the fullness of God, the God who was bigger than a billion universes and more powerful than a billion bursting suns. And more precisely, the fullness of a Gracious Christ, on a mission to restore creation to what it was destined to be.  
This is Christmas. Bigness and Power.  
(Necessary intro complete.) 

Christmas was not a whisper, a little candle in the dark.
Christmas is an explosion. A shattering of the world, of the universe, the fulfillment and unwinding of time in an instant, in a burst of heavenly light, in a declaration of war and peace. The heir to the Throne of the Universe set down his crown, put aside his glory, and stepped into the world. Infinity entered a womb. The King had declared his war, and now he came to rescue his enemies from the coming fire.
 Jesus, all-powerful son, equal of the father, who saw the forge of the earth, is standing in the portal, the Keeper of the Gate between the past and the future. The First Son and the Last. He, who has stood before the fire and the water, before gravity was suspended in the void, who shall stand there still when it snaps, and the lights go out and a whisper of dust is all that’s left, he lies in wait. The time is coming for Grace to pounce, the invasion of earth, planned even before the earth existed. 
And then the moment came; a whisper that spread through heaven, that trembled in the courtrooms of the most high. The time had come. The bells chimed, a clamor, the alarm.
And to the Son: It is time.
Time for the silence to end. For the storm to break. The fullness of time, in one explosion. He is the Epitaph of the Explosion, the eye of the hurricane. Time for the change.
Christmas is Ground Zero. D-Day.
The prophets cry out, and the earth rumbles. In the silence before the storm, the earth slumbers.
But the angels appear, and the sky trembles. Something is coming. Something that none understood, and none could stand in the face of. The end of the silence. A virgin is greeted by the most blessed of messengers, pregnant with the salvation of the universe.
The thunderheads rise, and they tingle in the back of every mind. So this is what Isaiah spoke of! Jeremiah! Hosea! What Moses could not have fully understood, what Abraham could not have dreamed! This was the Promise of God, so long awaited, so long forgotten. This was the New Morning.
A baby leaps in a mothers womb, for it knows, like cannon-fire in the distance. An army is building its ranks, just out of sight. The months trickle by, and Mary’s wonder grows. What will the child be? What shall he become? This child, so long expected, so long promised? 
And then, the night. And the explosion. A baby wails in a stall, and the whole universe, holding its breath, is shattered. The world explodes. The legions pour into the sky, and blot out the stars.
Peace! Peace! The night has come!
And this was no subtle choir of soft-faced angels, with golden hair and girlish figures. The armies of Heaven were arranged. An invasion force. A doomsday force. In the face of one of those soldiers, none could stand, not even the mightiest of men. A single one of them could slaughter 185,000 men in a night, break the back of the Assyrian army, could send kings running in shame (2 Kings 19:35), and here stand the legions, their ranks drawn up.
But here, the invasion force, ready to fall upon the earth and lay it to waste, no swords are drawn. The trumpets blare, and the voices cry,
“Emmanuel! Salvation is born! The master of the Stars has been bound into baby-skin! Behold, the keys to death and life are on the belt of his robe, and the light of the sun is on his brow. But he has come, not in the splendor of the tearing sky, but in the humility of a babe, the father of the Most High in the stable of the Lowest Low.
“Not to be served, but to serve. To dirty his hands and to sunburn his back, to labor and to bleed and to weep. The Immortal has become Mortal. Death shall swallow him, and from within it he shall rise. He shall conquer the Beast, and save his beloved, to pluck them from the thorns of darkness!”
Christ is behind enemy lines.
Christmas is not an event.
It is THE event. The end and the beginning. The extraction. He has come for his lost daughter, for the wandering and the stolen and the rebels, for his Zion. He has come to take her home.
Light, order, understanding and glory, an explosion that shoots through time and space and fills it. Time has meaning. Every moment, pregnant with that same child, and the man he would become, with that same glorious God. The world is shattered with the moment, the declaration, spoken first to the shepherds—
“God is here! He has come, and dwells among you in flesh! The earth shakes, and the sky rattles in its pane, because fulfillment has come. He is here! The consumer of the earth, the breather of life, he is in your midst. Go to Him. Fall on your knees! Awe and terror are his to demand. The stars he hung, and the stars glow now, pointing the way to him. Find him there, where no prince has ever lain, this King of Kings.
“Behold, his robe; but touch and be healed. His name, but call upon it and regain your sight. Fall on your knees, for God is here. Flee from him, or flee to him. He has come to rescue His beloved. Peace! Peace, to those with whom He is pleased!”
The explosion of History, the Universal Climax is here.
Adam’s world is fading. The grip of sin and darkness is weakening. The halls of hell shudder, and the courts of heaven cry with joy, the warriors and saints who have put away their swords until their King returns with his beloved children once more.
Fall on your knees, for the King of Kings, He who summons the floods and who rests his feet upon the toppled thrones of men, he can be touched! He who holds time and death holds mercy and life, and from the fire he has snatched us.
Christmas is the day that the world changed. The arrival of God, the presence of him in the midst of men, as it was in the Garden. His Triumphal Entry that only the Shepherds and the Angels were blessed to witness. The King has come, and he cries in the manger, as all newborns do. The fullness of God in a babe that was born to save us all.
Fall on your knees, indeed. Christmas is the end, and the beginning. And we, like the Shepherds, have heard the call. We have seen his glory. The stars point him out, and the trembling power of his presence is with us.

"Come then to Him, Who lies within the manger,
With joyful shepherds, proclaim Him as Lord!
Let not the Promised Son remain a stranger;
In reverent worship, make Christ your Adored!
Eternal life is theirs who would receive Him;
With grace and peace, their lives He will adorn.
Fall on your knees!
Receive the Gift of heaven!
O night, Divine, oh night, when Christ was born, 
O night, O holy night when Christ was born!"
© 2014 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

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