Recently, I sat on the front porch with my man, cup of coffee in hand, as together we watched the sun set on the first day of my 46th year of life.
Good and quiet, it was a simple day of serving in ways I can right now. Today, I find myself typing these words feeling thankful for all I’ve learned this past year.. especially for the good gift of perspective.
Perspective is what’s always been needed to enrich these seasons and it kinda stinks that you can only gain it as you go. As a result, Christmas feels so much richer to me than in years past. There’s a gravity… a solidifying of sorts. I feel the weight and the wonder of it all…. owning it— not as a more colorful square on the common calendar, or a time of extra revelry, but the way of life Christmas represents and offers is so valuable for my 24-7-365.
Perspective anchors me when I’m weary. When I’m standing in the middle of a moment coming completely unhinged inside as my list threatens “to-do me in” and choke life and joy from my heart. It helps me hold the difficult moments loosely enough to push through and remember…. Sometimes remembering only not to forget how this particular moment is not the end of my story —not the end of the story at all.
Perspective is what makes the litany of Christmas so precious to me. The words, the Scriptures and the stories we tell and retell about that O’ holiest of nights are part of my story—my genealogy and my family history which is deepening as the years go by.
So I’m hearing these words with sharpened senses keen to understand how it all fits together and where I fit in to that story, which began long before that little town of Bethlehem and continues on far past the empty tomb in the garden.
The Prophet Isaiah gets a lot of air time at this time of year— almost as much as Luke does in the telling of Jesus’s birth. Rightly so, as Isaiah foretold the coming, birth and death of the Messiah in ways and details which assure us that he not only had heard from God on the matter but was pointing to Jesus of Nazareth born some 600 years later. It truly is amazing, that perspective.
One such passage of Isaiah finds it’s way into the back story of Christmas every year as we encounter the reasons why we need a Messiah in the first place. No matter how many times it’s read, it seems odd and a bit out of place — off balance and hard to fit into the puzzle. The moment you press down on one edge, the other side pops slightly askew and you know it doesn’t quite fit…. Yet.
The very fact that it doesn’t fit— seems so odd, out of place and foreign to our understanding points to the problem we have of living in a fallen world. Points, then guides us beyond ourselves and our known reality of this life of constant struggle. Beyond, to the place of creation restored.
In this place wolves share homes with lambs while leopards rest amongst plump goats. Calves and lions share a common meal and everyone is using good table manners. No one feels threatened for fear of being devoured and there’s enough for everyone. Defenseless babies play amongst snakes and there no fear of wounding, poisoning or exploitation.
There is peace.
There is safety.
There is communion.
And a little Child….shall lead them.
It’s weird. Unimaginable. Yet God, through the Prophet Isaiah says this is what we have to look forward to…and now, I’m beginning to get it.
Obviously, it’s more than a future filled with instinct-resistant snakes and livestock modeling a vegan lifestyle. Isaiah paints a picture of complete restoration within and without. Natural and unnatural enemies will be restored to relationship. The ones who’d normally abuse, devour and exploit the other will have no such inclination. Desires and hungers will be completely realigned —as in restored to their original state and reoriented with God at the center.
All because a “little Child”…born one night in the City of David and wrapped in swaddling clothes…shall be their leader.
Leading from within them. Inside them…from inside us. Christ, shall lead us Home.
This Child is not distracted nor does He judge by what His eyes see or His ears hear in the world around because the Spirit of the Lord, of wisdom, understanding, counsel and might guides Him to lead in perfect justice.
And He can guide us too.
No matter how many times we say those words, they’re as unimaginable as the scene this passage depicts.
Because for now, we must cautiously live in the midst of prowling lions looking to feast upon lamed or fat, sleepy sheep.
Because, cunning wolves, some masquerading as shepherds, seek lambs to exploit or devour, while others wreak havoc and violence throughout the world.
Because serpents slither in and out of every crevice wounding and poisoning hearts and minds as they go.
Nevertheless, we can be led and guided through.
Guided through this world that Christ came to and became for, wrapping Himself in it’s dirty flesh to dwell among us and to conquer the violence, as Ravi Zacharius says, not in spite of it — but through it.
For, in that moment, on that night, fracturing time and space, God so loved that He turned Himself inside out to turn us right side in again with Him— for Him…and for this relationship with creation restored.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining… til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”
Do you hear?
Do you see?
Do you know?
Joy to the World! The Lord has come! And He is coming again.