Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe
~ Bruce Cockburn
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time He brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a Great Light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has Light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased it’s joy; they rejoice before You as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, You have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
~ from Isaiah 9
Oh beloved, it is true.
We were born to be happy. We were born to appreciate pleasure. We were made for joy. The problem is that we have completely forgotten what happiness is in our world. There was a place, and there was a time where we knew what this was. But now, we live East of the Eden where the happiness existed. We have lost our joy. We gain nothing from the things we call pleasure.
In our fierce choice, the choice to grasp at the knowledge of good and evil, the choice to try and make ourselves to be like G_d, we tore ourselves away from the One Thing that could ever make us happy. And, in trying to make ourselves aware of good and evil and to be like The Eternal One, we fell from the ability to ever attain those things.
Said more simply: we grasped for happiness like a starving child. The problem is that we were sitting at a table set lush with all the choicest foods, and the very best of Company. We were with Him. We were in the garden with They Who made us. We were tended by The Very Gardener of Life. Then, we listened to the liar.
And, in our blind quest for self-derived, or self-found happiness – we walked away from it all. Since that moment, we have been born screaming and crying and hurting and dying. No, we never learned the lesson either. We are still trying to grab for some sort of happiness in our fallen happenstance. And, the farther we have fallen, the lower and debased our sense of what will actually make it happen.
It is time for some repentance. And Christmas is the perfect time for the profound change of mind this word implies.
A number of theologians have spoken of this concept, as does His Word: The One born of the Father without a mother, takes on flesh in Mary to be born of a mother without a father. And, it is in this truth, that we have a chance to return to Joy. By the way, did you ever notice the theme of the angels’ declaration at Christmas? Joy!
Can we see it?
Joy is not getting something. Happiness is not attaining to some level of self-induldence or pleasure. No, all of this is not a thing at all. Joy, happiness, pleasure is inside of something. And that insideness is called relationship. For, in the garden, so long ago, we were in a face to face relationship with our Creator. When we walked away from this, we were not just banished from a pleasant place, we lost the only thing that could make us happy – ever.
So, this is gorgeous truth of Christmas. Jesus came, not to just show up and accomplish an heroic and loving death on the cross (though, this would have been exceedingly, abundantly more than enough). For, it seems that G_d could have accomplished our redemption in a much more spectacular way, that would have left us no doubt as to His infinite power.
No, Christmas shows us what real power is – the kind of power that does not require showing off, or getting our own way. Christmas shows us what G_d is really like and where His heart is for each of us. Christmas is where He shows – again – His beautiful face.
And, in the incarnation, Jesus becomes Man, forever. His Face, His friendship, His hands feeding people, healing disease, blessing children , accepting nails through to rough wood, and His hands raised in victory as He walks right out of a beaten grave…. This is joy: to see Him. This is deep, whole and healing relational strength: to be reconciled to Him. This is happiness: to know Him – this is the pleasure we have ever been trying to find.
So, does Christmas just seem like another holiday? Maybe it is time for some repentance, beloved. You (and often, this fool of a writer) have been looking for happiness where it does not exist…. Tonight is your night. Time to find the Joy that the angels sang so loudly about.
Written by Makala Doulos: Makala Doulos is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.
The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 58; Proverbs 28
Daily Quote: The immense step from the Babe at Bethlehem to the living, reigning triumphant Lord Jesus, returning to earth for His own people – that is the glorious truth proclaimed throughout Scripture. As the bells ring out the joys of Christmas, may we also be alert for the final trumpet that will announce His return, when we shall always be with Him.
~ Alan Redpath
This Week’s Verse to Memorize:
I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities. Psalm 31:7