What Really Happened

Recently listening to my favorite pastor, Erwin McManus out at Mosaic in Los Angeles, he made a point in a message that stuck with me.  He stated that none of the Gospel writers were around for the birth of Jesus.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John came into the picture when Jesus was an adult. This means Mary and Joseph had to tell others the story.

Imagine how many times they had to tell the story.

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I think we tend to minimize what happened.  Most can recite it by heart and our minds go to the plays and musicals of youth.

At the time, Roman gods painted a different picture.  They demanded obedience and sacrifice.  Temples and worship centers were across the empire. The gods, when bored, messed with humanity. When angry, bad things happened.  When happy, times were blessed.  The gods were distant though and creation bent to their whims.

This was different.

Imagine, the moment.  The instant. The blink of an eye when the particles of the universe moved and the divine arrived.  This wasn’t a temple in the midst of an elaborate worship ceremony.  This was dirt and darkness.  Animals and a star that lit the darkness around it.

This was a young father listening to his partner say she was pregnant when there was no way for it to physically be possible.  They decide, against everything else, to see it through.

This was angels, towering figures of light telling regular people to not be afraid. This was shepherds making a journey to people they’d never known, seeing the message and rejoicing, letting loose in celebration!

This was men traveling from far lands bringing gifts.

And lest we forget, this was death to hundreds of young boys in the attempt of a rash king to preserve his legacy.

The birth of Jesus was dark and dramatic and powerful. The creator of the Universe arriving in the form of a child, helpless and hungry.  The Holy arriving to show understanding and compassion, to dig in the dirt and meet us there.

God’s first breath coming in the cold Bethlehem air, first cry in humility, hunger and thirst.

Imagine his first perception of light, light created in the Beginning by the Word. Imagine the first touch of wind on his skin, wind coming from the Breath.  Imagine stars cast into the sky by the same small hands that grasp Mary’s finger.

Human and God.  Dirt and Noise. Power and Praise.  Fear and Celebration.

A night that changed history, past and present. A night that rewrote the future, that tipped the scales against death and the balance that would be paid on the cross.

Make no mistake, in the distance from the manger, over the hills, the cross loomed large. The story would be complete, victory would be won, creation transformed.

And it started here.  This night. This moment.

This look between Mary and Joseph and a smile saying we’ll be okay.  No matter how scared we are, we’ll be okay.

Everything will work out.

Fatherhood

As I put Aiden to sleep tonight, the events of the past few weeks played back in my mind. This summer was complicated, on a daily basis, on multiple fronts with our family. We’ve experienced professional and personal challenges, growth and setbacks. We’ve had to dig deep and pull together.

Not an easy time to be a father.

In the darkness of Aiden’s room, Joseph and the Christmas story came to mind.

Imagine you are young and married.  You get word that you need to travel back to your home town because the oppressive Roman government needs a head count.  You pack your stuff, and your wife, and make your way home.

Then you find out, through an angel, that she’s pregnant.  You know the baby isn’t yours.

Now what?

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Think about the human side.  Think about the moment the angel vanished and you look in Mary’s eyes. The room is quiet.  Back to life.  Back to reality.

Jesus is born in the stable.  At some point, the shepherds and wisemen leave. Now it is you, this baby, your wife, and some animals.  Life begins.

What was it like to raise Jesus? How did Joseph handle his first cries and frustration, his first best friend and skinned knee? Did he ever look in the mirror and ask himself:

Am I Cut Out For This?

Fatherhood is a marathon.  It is taking a day in five-minute increments and counting your success with peace and happiness, even if they are fleeting.  It is one step at a time. It is grasping straws and tying them together to form some kind of whole. It can pull you to deep lows and raise you to glorious heights.

So we keep going because struggle brings perseverance, perseverance brings character and character brings hope and maybe that is the whole point. The dark days drive you forward and shape you for the future. You have hope for better things, the bright side that offers hints of our home in eternity.

Hang in there. This too will pass.

~Matt