Day Five: God In Person

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! (1 John 1:1-4 MSG)

“But Christianity is unique [from other religions]. It doesn’t say incarnation is normal, but it doesn’t say it’s impossible. It says God is so immanent that it is possible, but He is so transcendent that the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ is a history-altering, life-transforming, paradigm-shattering event…

“If Jesus didn’t come, the story of Christmas is one more moral paradigm to crush you. If Jesus didn’t come, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere around these Christmas stories that say we need to be sacrificing, we need to be humble, we need to be loving. All that will do is crush you into the ground…

“[But] if Jesus Christ is actually God come in the flesh, you’re going to know much more about God… If Jesus is who he says he is, we have a 500-page autobiography from God, in a sense. And our understanding will be vastly more personal and specific than any philosophy or religion could give us. [Because of Christmas] look at what God has done to get you to know him personally. If the Son would come all this way to become a real person to you, don’t you think the Holy Spirit will do anything in his power to make Jesus a real person to you in your heart? Christmas is an invitation by God: ‘Look what I’ve done to come near to you. Now draw near to Me. I don’t want to be a concept; I want to be a friend.’” [Tim Keller, “Why Christmas Matters”]

Let’s pray: Father, may Your Spirit fill us with power that we would truly and personally know Jesus. We want to come and draw near to You more than anything. Enable us to experience the reality of Your presence in our midst. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

– JP


Day Four: The Glory of Self-Giving Love

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:1-5, 10-13)

“‘In the beginning was the Word.’ I suspect there are many people who, if they know no other sentences in the New Testament, know that one—because they have heard it in carol services, in parish churches, or on the radio, every Christmas. Very few perhaps realize what John is doing when he starts his Gospel with those words…

“[J]ust as the book of Genesis begins with the making of the world, with the crown of creation being the shaping of man and woman in God’s image, so this extraordinary poem of new creation in John 1.1-18 reaches its climax with that wonderful statement in verse 14: ‘the Word became flesh.’ How else could the living God express himself within the world? What else would he become if not a human being, made in his image? John goes on to say that we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, the perfect reflection of the glory of God…

“This glory was revealed supremely in Jesus’ giving of his own life as the sacrifice for sins of the world, enthroned on the cross… when we look at this Jesus, and above all at Jesus crucified for the sins of the world, then we see the true nature of the Father’s heart. It is a heart of glory, the glory of self-giving love.” [NT Wright, Reflecting the Glory, p. 86]

– JP


Day Three: Ecce Homo

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? …Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. (Isaiah 40:18, 21–23)

“We prepare to witness a mystery. More to the point, we prepare to witness the Mystery, the God made flesh. While it is good that we seek to know the Holy One, it is probably not so good to presume that we ever complete the task, to suppose that we ever know anything about him except what he has made known to us… He cannot be comprehended, but he can be touched. His coming in the flesh—this Mystery we prepare to glimpse again — confirms that he is to be touched.” [Scott Cairns, in God with Us, p. 57]

“In an incomprehensible reversal of all righteous and pious thinking, God declares himself guilty to the world and thereby extinguishes the guilt of the world… God stands in for godlessness, love stands in for hate, the Holy One for the sinner. Now there is no longer any godlessness, any hate, any sin that God has not taken upon himself, suffered, and atoned for… That is what God did in his beloved Son Jesus Christ. Ecce homo — see the incarnate God, the unfathomable mystery of the love of God for the world. God loves human beings. God loves the world—not ideal human beings but people as they are, not an ideal world but the real world.” [D. Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger, p. 30]

Let’s pray: Father God, take us deeper into You, the mystery of Your love, the reality of Your presence.

– JP


Day Two: Welcome to the World of Wonder

“None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.’” (1 Corinthians 2:8–10)

“[T]hat is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly… God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken…

“That…is the unrecognized mystery of this world: Jesus Christ. That this Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter, was himself the Lord of glory: that was the mystery of God. It was a mystery because God became poor, low, lowly, and weak out of love for humankind, because God became a human being like us, so that we would become divine, and because he came to us so that we would come to him. God as the one who becomes low for our sakes, God in Jesus of Nazareth—that is the secret, hidden wisdom… that ‘no eye has seen nor ear heard nor the human heart conceived’ (1 Cor. 2:9)… That is the depth of the Deity, whom we worship as mystery and comprehend as mystery.”  (D. Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger, p. 23).

May we be like little children, discovering all the wonders of living in the kingdom of God. Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, Your love is amazing! Take us even deeper into your ways, into Your world that’s full of grace and glory. Lord, we sing to You! “I see the world in wonder”! “Wonder” by Hillsong United

– JP


Day One: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.) That’s when Jeremiah’s sermon was fulfilled: A sound was heard in Ramah, weeping and much lament. Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace, Her children gone, dead and buried. (Matthew 2.16-18 MSG)

Where are the kids jingle belling, marshmallows toasting and holiday cheer? Isn’t Christmas supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Yet, the original Christmas event is riddled with intrigue, murder and survival. The powers of this world dispute the authority of God’s only Son. The rulers of this world assault the Savior sent by God. The privileged of this world deride the humble King of kings. Humanity’s resistance of God’s plan of salvation results in catastrophe – what could have been a silent, holy night has become a night of wailing and terror.

But to the destitute, the unvalued, the waiting – this is God making good on His ancient promise… His promise to send “a New King; a Rescuing King; a Forever King!” (A. Mitchell, “The Christmas Promise”) Finally! This is how our mourning transforms into dancing and shouts of joy! (Psalm 30.11). Instead of meeting God with dissension and resistance… we can gladly welcome and celebrate this “good news of great joy for all people”! (Luke 2:10).

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we rejoice in your salvation! While some may look at Jesus with misgivings or cynicism, we welcome Him with childlike wonder and joy!

Let’s sing and worship the Lord together. The Lord has come to us! ­— “Hearts Waiting (Joy to the World)” by Matt Redman

– JP