The God Who Comes Near


Photo credit: clarksvilleonline.com

I read a Facebook status yesterday that took my breath away.

“The first Christmas was God taking the armor off and becoming vulnerable to the worst we could do to Him.” —Dr. Steve Brown.

Those words are so powerful because they are so true.

The very fact that the same Jesus who called this world into existence would voluntarily leave the perfect and glorious beauty of Heaven to come to this earth as a helpless baby on a rescue mission to save our sin-stained souls is the miracle that should leave us stunned with wonder every Christmas.

In recent years, I have become much more intentional about savoring the Christmas season…not for gifts or the music or the celebrations (as wonderful as those things are)…but for THE Gift: the wondrous gift of Immanuel, God With Us.

Just this morning, I was reminded anew how approachable Jesus has made Himself to us and it filled my soul with fresh joy.

In Ann Voskamp’s advent devotional The Greatest Gift, she writes this:

“God can’t stay away. This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning…He comes as a Baby because He is done with barriers. He comes vulnerable because He knows the only way to intimacy with you is through vulnerability with you. You can’t get to intimacy except through the door of vulnerability. So God throws open the doors of this world and enters as a baby. As the most vulnerable imaginable. Because He wants unimaginable intimacy with you.

What religion ever had a god that wanted such intimacy with us that He came with such vulnerability to us?

What God ever came so tender we could touch Him? So fragile we could break Him? So vulnerable that His bare, beating heart could be hurt? Only the One who loves you to death.

“Christmas is about God’s doing whatever it takes to be with us…He climbed down from the throne in Heaven to get to you. (pp.234-236)

I just finished reading a fascinating book by Walter Wangerin, Jr called “The Book Of God: The Bible As A Novel.” He is a beautiful writer and his words made the Bible come alive for me in a fresh way. Near the end of the book, he writes about the moment when the doubting disciple Thomas sees Jesus for the first time after His resurrection. Thomas had refused to let himself believe the other disciples’ accounts of seeing the risen Christ.

However, he was about to experience an encounter with Jesus that he would never forget the rest of his days.

The very much alive Jesus appeared to him and all doubt flew away forever.

Wangerin writes: “On Sunday night the disciples were again gathered in the upper room…Thomas felt himself alien here. Everyone else seemed bound together by some ethereal experience that excluded him. His mood was sour. He was planning to leave these people and this place but he hadn’t yet decided where to go.

Then someone directly behind him said, “Peace be with you.”

Thomas began to turn around—then leaped to his feet, all his nerves singing. It was Jesus!

Candlelight brushed the sides of His face with an orange warmth and shade. He was looking at Thomas.

“Come here.” Jesus said.

Jesus was speaking to none but him. “Thomas, come here.”

Slowly Thomas approached.

As He did, Jesus opened the palms of His hands and said, “Reach out your finger. Examine my wounds.”

Jesus opened His robe so that His flesh was visible from His ribs to His hip. “Reach out your hand and put it into My side….Do not be faithless but believing!”

The poor disciple, now completely bowed down before Jesus whispered, “My Lord and My God!” (pp. 829-830).

(You can read the biblical account of this event in John 20:24-29)

Christmas declares that our infinitely powerful and holy God has come close enough to allow us to reach out and touch Him. First as a baby, then as a boy, then as a man.

Not every touch was a tender one, however. He allowed His body and face to be punched with fists, His forehead to be lacerated with a crown of thorns,  His back to be ripped to shreds by a brutal whip made of lead balls and pieces of bone, His hands and feet to be punctured with nails, and His side to be pierced with a sword.

He allowed His created ones to kill Him, their Creator.

All for the love of you.

And then in a beautiful moment, He invites Thomas, who was as frail and fallible as we are, to touch His resurrected body that will forever bear the scars that made it possible for us who once had a death sentence hanging over our heads to be set free.

There is a glorious day coming for every Christ follower who now walks this earth: One day, you will see the resurrected Jesus, just as Thomas did. Not only will you see His beautiful face, hear His Voice, and bask in the warmth of His smile, but you, too, will be able to see and touch the scars that bought you your freedom.

And you will spend all eternity giving thanks for the fact that God Himself entered time and space and came near to us in that stable in Bethlehem.

And she gave birth to her Son and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger because there was no room or place for them in the inn.

And in that vicinity, there were shepherds living out under the open sky in the field watching over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them and they were terribly frightened.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the town of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:7-11) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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