Saturday, December 24, 2011

For Love of a Lamb

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."         Luke 2:8-12
I find it amusing that I can read the same passage of Scripture over and over, even recite it from memory, and suddenly one day, I will see an angle or way of understanding that I had not noticed before. It is like that with the Christmas story, and I marvel at it in a fresh way each year.
What struck me this year was the words of the angel to the shepherds: "You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." These were the messengers of the living God, a God that the Hebrew people held in such reverence that they never spoke His name, though He revealed it to them through Moses. The angel was delivering the message of the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah-- the King of the Jews; promised from the time of the Fall of man, promised to David that the throne of Israel would belong to his descendants forever (1 Samuel 7:16); promised through the Prophet that His reign would be forever and would bring peace, righteousness and justice (Isaiah 9:7). Many Jews of the time waited eagerly for this King, whom they believed would overthrow the oppressive Roman rule and bring political freedom to the people of Israel.

And so, it is no small detail that the heavenly messengers appeared and spoke these words to common shepherds--a necessary job, but neither an honorable nor highly-desired one--rather than to priests, to royalty, or to high society. Nor is it meager information that they announced that this Baby; this King-to-be who would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace; was to be found lying in a feeding trough for animals. He did not come in power and glory, He was not born into wealth and comfort, He was not surrounded by cushions and splendor, born with the aid of the best midwives that could be found as one might expect a great and powerful ruler to be. Rather, He was born to a young woman, the betrothed of a skilled laborer, and born in downright squalid conditions where sheep and goats brought their young bleating into the world. The Lamb of God was born in much the same way as any lamb would be and in the same place. And he would not be difficult for these shepherds to find, as I am sure that it was not a Bethlehemian trend to lay one's precious, newborn infant in the same container where one spread the feed for the goats!

This Christmas, as I reflect on the one great Gift we were all given--the gift of Emmanuel who willingly laid aside glory, honor, and power we can scarcely imagine--I must also reflect on what this means to me, personally. If my great and mighty God, my King, was willing to be born in such conditions; if the Creator of the world would subject Himself willingly to the limits of His creation; if my Master would humble Himself to live as a helpless human infant, who had to grow, learn, be fed and changed as all babies do, what of me? What task is beneath me, if the One who created me would live so and also be born only to die -- for me? When I am given a love so fantastic and selfless as this, how can I ever think to withhold my love from another person? How can I ever think of love as mere emotion again? 

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 
John 15:12

 Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.