“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Even as a toddler, I never had the pretense I could save myself. If the circumstances of my childhood bestowed one thing, it was, I needed a savior. Both of my parents struggled. My dad’s struggles were boisterous. He had bouts of mania, debilitating seasons of clinical depression, and suicidality. On any given day, we could start off playing Wiffle ball in the backyard and end with him waking us at midnight to take us to an orphanage.
My mom also struggled, but she left when I was about three years old. For the most part, she never looked back. Even at five or six years old, I’d spend days prepping for her once a year visit. Her visits were devoid of emotional connection. She’d often tell stories that contradicted previous ones she’d told. I fought hard to sort through the chaos. Juxtaposed to my dad’s state, where everything was plain–albeit too plain, with my mom, life was confusing and covert. My childhood battered me.
Despite my best strategies, I felt uncertain I’d recover from the ache of it all. Whether my parents intended it or not, before I learned to talk, I felt obliterated and unlovable. I was desperately-hopeful, if there is such a thing. I longed for something– like the climax of a great movie, for that thing that made sense of it all.
It took me some time to discover who and what it meant for me, but, the Climax did come. My savior had been born in a stable. His name was Jesus. Christ’s birth at Christmas was a declaration of his love and saving mercy.
With the privilege of hindsight, my childhood’s circumstances were a gift of God’s grace. Now, as I see it, before I knew anything else, I knew I needed rescue. Who gets that? What generosity!
What’s more, as I came to understand how Jesus appeared, a fragile baby in a hostile world, it mattered that he understood my humanity. For my sake and yours, he chose to be born to an unwed mother pushed to the margins of society. For our benefit, Jesus elected to be born into a low-income family, from a town without regard. He chose to come into the world as an unremarkable man without beauty or nobility. And while here, he remained focused on loving, including, and giving hope to the needy despite what it would cost him. That was his Plan A. Whether we know it or not, Jesus was born, lived, and died to love and give hope to vulnerable people. People like you and me. This is Christmas’ gift.
Sunday marked the fourth week of Advent. We lit the fourth candle symbolizing love. As we reflect upon God’s steadfast and sacrificial love, revealed most fully in Jesus, let thanksgiving flood our hearts and minds. Let’s ask God to empower us to recommit to his greatest command: Loving God and others this coming year.
Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
worship we our Jesus,
but wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
love be yours and love be mine;
love to God and others,
love for plea and gift and sign.
Join us for our Advent series:
Week 2: Meeting Our Prince of Peace
Week 4: Learning to Love Vulnerably