Friday, December 22, 2006

Redeeming the Time: Imitating Christ 2

"...out of the mouths of babes and infants you have established strength (praise) because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger..." (Ps 8:2)

This is the paradox of the Incarnation. God proposed to still His mighty and numerous foes out of the mouth of one Child, who had taken on all the limitations and disadvantages of humanity.

And yet, because He put on frail flesh, we can put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6). Because He did not cry or lift up His voice against His oppressors (Isa 42:2, 53:7), we can open our mouths in praise and thanks (Phil 2:9-11; Isa 35:10; Lk 1:67-75). Because He limited His divine perceptions to five senses, we have our eyes opened, our ears unstopped, our hands strengthened, our tongues loosed, our feet straightened and our prisons unlocked (Isa 42:7; 35:3-6).

Because He did not insist upon His divine prerogatives, but condescended to serve the blind, the lame, the fearful, the ungrateful, and even the traitor; we are called and enabled to serve where no one sees, no one helps, no one says 'thanks', and where we are likely to be betrayed (Phil. 2:5-11). Probably we will not have to search far to find such a place in our lives.

May God strengthen us with His joy to this service: that we may set aside our prerogatives and serve in such a way that eyes are opened, ears are unstopped, hands are strengthened, tongues are loosed, and prisons unlocked. And though we suffer in this service, let it not be simply as a doormat, but only as it frees to righteousness those we serve and binds us in joy and gratitude to the One who suffered everything for us.

Let us see and adore Him.

An Epiphany

We've never been rich, but we thank God. There really is something about scarcity that sharpens the sensibilities. When it comes to gift-giving times, the desire to be able to gift the ones you love with something of real value is almost a physical ache.

And it brings into clearer focus some of the reasons why Jesus came to us in poverty and lowliness - not only to feel our weaknesses, our miseries, but also to feel that sharp longing to have something to give...

On my birthday, three little packages shone bravely from the festive table. The first, urged upon me eagerly by Elizabeth, our eldest, was wrapped in an origami envelope of Byzantine complexity. The shining contents cascaded and clicked sensuously into my hand: a necklace gathered of all the lost and secret bits of the jewelry our sometime princesses have worn in their day. She had even sacrificed a couple of real Venetian glass beads that had been handsome vases in her dollhouse. Together they were a talisman of childhood's delights.

Then Winston, with ingenuous grin and self-deprecating wag of the head, thrust two carefully folded sheets of paper into my hand. "I love you, Mommy!" he breathed. The papers showed a four-year-old's pen and ink jungle inhabited by an ark-full of dinosaur stickers. Just days before, feeling wealthy with the proceeds of her first babysitting job, Elizabeth had bought each of her siblings a small present. These dinosaurs had been Winston's.

With a miserable sigh, Anne pushed her offering closer and handed me another origami envelope. She plopped down next to me, studying my face as I read the careful second grade script, "I didn't have much to work with. Love, Anne". I blinked and swallowed hard. Inside her box was a bird, soaring wings outstretched. It was too large to make a convenient ornament, but its curves whispered, "touch me". Anne alone had seen hidden possibilities in it as it lay in a jumbled garage sale box last summer and had rescued it with her last nickel. Now it wore fairy tale colors and sparkled with a crusting of make-believe gems that would have done credit to the Emperor's nightingale.

Anne glowed like a star next to me, urgent with the hope that I, too, could now see the fabulous beauty in this homely bit of plastic. And those wings arched with a burning radiance, thundering accompaniment to the heartbreaking "Gloria!" blazing from otherwordly throats, the love song of the Bridegroom, argent with the hope that we, His beloved could see our ransom, our resurrection, our Redeemer in a pauper's newborn.

With such gifts, we shall never be poor.

December 1996

Kim Anderson


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