No story is better known. No story better captures the heart of a child - small or grown - than the one we celebrate today. No matter how many times we hear the story it never grows old, it never disappoints, and never ceases to evoke deep emotions of wonder, awe, and comfort. An angel’s proclamation to illiterate shepherds, a teenage unwed mother, a loyal carpenter fiancée, the evil king Herod, and a cold, clear, Bethlehem night without a place to stay. A messy birth in an animal’s stall, alongside a dirty alley in the dark of night. Confused cows watching unknowingly as the Son of the universe stares back unknowingly at the very animals He had created eons before. A mother, a child, a carpenter, a few agitated animals, and the pungent smell of manure.
This is a story so absurd that it could only have been scripted by a Divine hand. No other writer would have attempted such a script. If they had they would not have claimed it to be true: fiction maybe, but not reality. This is not how the One whose voice had echoed off of a billion galaxies would make His entrance. Without CNN and Fox News, into a hovel known affectionately today as Bethlehem but then nothing more than a tiny village on the path to Jerusalem.
His entrance was marked not by a proclamation to kings but to astonished herdsmen sleeping with sheep. The heavens opened with ten thousand voices – not over Jerusalem the ancient capital – but over a tiny grazing field for a handful of insignificant shepherds. They would be the only witnesses of the grand entrance of a King. No other writer would have written such a script.
No other author would have taken such a chance. For behind this story, there are echoes of another story - equally incredulous. Centuries before in the vastness of eternity past – when infinity kissed infinity, The Master of Infinity spoke into being the universe in which we live - 3,000 of whose stars are visible to the careful eye, 30 billion visible from a large telescope, - the other 90% of the universe still hidden from our eyes. Its splendor is an eternal testimony to the Author of the story.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render: O help us to see
Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.
(Walter Chalmers Smith)
The Author’s heart had love that could not be contained. A heart full of love is not easily satisfied. Transcendent goodness longed to give away infinite love. Again the Author spoke: A planet was expertly crafted. One among billions. A people wonderfully created – in the image of the Author. Free to love, free to experience the infinite goodness of the Author. Free to revel in His infinite Love. But above all free. Love cannot be forced and remain love.
We are not the sole owners of broken hearts. No heart suffered such sorrow as Infinite Love rejected. Image bearers rejected the Image Maker. The story’s characters fired the Author to write their own script. Unmatched, searing pain pierced the Author’s heart as the loved one jilted the Lover.
Chaos infiltrated beauty. A planet was hijacked and spun out of control. Poverty of spirit supplanted endless joy. Unfulfilled hearts realized the pain of lost love. Without the Author, individual storylines faltered – and failed. Sadness reigned. Darkness descended in seeming endless gloom.
Truth can be stranger than fiction. For in the pained heavens the grieving Author plotted love’s revenge. An awesome revenge that only Divinity could contrive – that only Divinity would contrive. Having lost His loved, the Lover would send His most loved to reclaim His heart’s desire. The rejected Creator would kiss the unfaithful created. Tender mercy in place of deserved destruction. An astonished heaven broke into unbelieving applause. Image bearers would be reclaimed by the Image Maker. Light would once again prevail over darkness. Brokenness would be made whole. Peace would triumph over chaos.
All was silent in the heavens on the chosen night. Angels held their corporate breath. For nine months the Son had been absent, resident in a young girl's womb, coming to us, not as a king but incognito, just one of the thousands of children that would be born on a lonely planet that night – into the darkness that our word had become. Placenta covered the Son of the universe arriving to claim back His beloved: this time, one by one, heart by heart. Tender mercy arriving in disguise: one of us, one like us. On that night, the Author personally entered our story.
Such humility our world has never known. A stunning reversal for a world gone astray. A Heart full of love is not easily satisfied. Transcendent goodness longing to give away infinite love, arriving under cover of night in order to “shine on those living in darkness…to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:27).
When an author writes, each character is unique; each has his or her own story-line. We, each have a story – unique, unrepeated, singular. Each story has its own joy, its own pain, its own pathos and unmatched quality. But each shares one singular, astonishing feature. We are made in the Author’s image, and He will not rest until we have invited Him to join in our story.
More astonishing than the script He has authored, the story we celebrate today is that He also wants to enter into your story. This is the most ancient of stories but it is also the most contemporary of stories. The Christmas story is but one chapter in the Author’s divine script. The Author is still writing. And every person who invites Him into their story becomes a separate and unique chapter in His unfinished book. And into each story, He brings His light and peace.
“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17.)
Have you invited Him into your story?
Father, my heart is amazed anew at your love. This Christmas, I thank you again for the greatest gift ever given of your Son. Amen