Sugar cookies and public libraries


I’ve been home a total of two days and already had one crisis about the future. Welcome to the post-grad life. All that confident talk about waiting to see what God has in store for me, how I’m willing to follow and be obedient and be faithful until things start to happen is true, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have small meltdowns every once in a while.

We were making cookies, my mom and me. The short days make everyone sleepy, and we’d both been fighting sleepiness more than usual. Also, it turns out that yesterday was the shortest day of the year. Yes, this does make people more melancholy and woeful than usual.

We were cutting out sugar cookies, because those are the most sentimental of all the Christmas cookies for me. She was holding the parchment paper while I rolled out the ball of dough right on it. Then we’d cut out the cookies and peel away the extra dough instead of moving the cookies. It was making for fewer fallen angels and dopey trees.

It had only been one day of not having purpose and not knowing what’s ahead.

“I’m just feeling like I need hope, like I need perspective about what’s coming.”

She got it. “It’s only been one day. You’ve got lots of things coming up. Christmas is coming. You’ll go back to Loft and work. You can follow up with the places you applied.”

She’s right. It helped a little. Sometimes it’s hard to fight how you feel though. My mind was starting to agree with her though.

“You just have to act yourself into a better way of feeling.” That works. She’d know, being a former counselor. If I act with purpose and create some structure where there isn’t much, that’ll help.

I still felt the melancholy though.

It didn’t help that my dad came in and told my mom about their plane ticket reservation. She’s going with him on a business trip. Over Valentine’s Day weekend. Somewhere warm. It makes sense – someone should actually enjoy the warmth while he’s in meetings. I just graduated. I don’t get vacations yet. I wouldn’t spend Valentine’s Day with my parents anyways. It’s not like it’ll be much different that they aren’t there.

We kept rolling out the cookies and putting sprinkles on some. Rolling out cookies is a process. We’d only made a half recipe, but it took a couple hours to get them all cut out and baked.

Today I ran errands, created purpose in a day where the only thing I had to do was go to church for a short rehearsal for Christmas Eve. I braved traffic to the post office, went to meet my new boss and offer all my hours, grocery shopped with everyone and their grandma, and went to the library.

I went to print something, but when the printer was busy, I found myself looking at the books. And then looking for books I’d heard recommended.

And ended up walking out with all of these.

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Even though I’m already reading two books and won’t be able to finish these in just two weeks, most likely.

Well, maybe I can.

I told my dad that this is why I graduated college a semester early, to read whatever I wanted in larger quantities.

He laughed, but we both know it’s a little bit true.

Reading is a contribution to a future in publishing. And it give purpose. It’s like traveling to a warm place with someone you love but less expensive and more sedentary.

This is what I’ll be doing until I start working full-time. Thank the good Lord for public libraries.

Birth and death.


In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I often read and re-read the different Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus and the events surrounding it, partly because it’s a powerful story and partly because its my best defense against commercialization.

I don’t usually do that around Easter. I probably will read the crucifixion story once a year, again if a sermon makes me.

I have a theory about this. For one thing, I’m always more excited about a birth than a death. Granted, Jesus’ death signals the beginning of life abundant for all of humanity, so technically this is a birth, too.

No, my theory has more to do with what each story requires of me. The story of the birth of Christ asks me to take pause and remember that I serve a God who comes to meet humanity right where they are, who humbles Himself to the point of being born in a barn. It asks for my gratitude, for me to think ahead to the hope I have in Christ, and for me to celebrate.

Easter’s a celebration, too. But it asks more of me. Perhaps this is why I don’t read and re-read the story for all of Lent. Easter asks me to die to sin – to my very nature  – because God became man and was nailed to a cross after being beaten and abused. And he did it for me.

Easter asks me to take stock of the sin in my life and mourn for it. It asks me to nail it to the cross and bear it no more (sound easy? I know. It does… but it’s not). It asks me to remember that I serve a living God, one who walks with me and is constantly rearranging my life so it looks more like one He would live.

It’s not quite as cozy. Certainly, if I use the Christmas story and jump ahead to Easter – because it’s all part of the same master narrative, really – I’ll have the same experience both times. But it’s pretty segregated in our world.

I think there’s a reason Easter is commercialized in a way that has nothing at all to do with what it’s about. At least Santa has to do with kindness and giving and somewhat the spirit of God coming to earth (but even then not much). But the Easter bunny? Seems like a blatant coverup to mask the power of the greatest story of all time. People don’t sell crucifixion scenes in most stores, but you’ll see the chicks and bunnies and candy.

Easter should be a wake-up call for me – to remember who I live for, why it’s worth it, and that death has no hold on me anymore because of Jesus.

That being said, I will definitely eat the pastel peanut butter M&Ms while remembering those things.

Keeping Christmas


And it was always said of him, that heWhen the last goodnight had been said last year on Christmas, I knew that normalcy had subsided in terms of holidays and that our family was headed into a new normal. When Brooke and Alex tied the knot in January, we knew life would change – in many ways for good.

But you can’t prepare for change, because that’s just the nature of it. It’s different, transitional, unexpected.

This year marks the first time Brooke and I didn’t open either a pair of pajamas or one of our favorite Disney movies on DVD on Christmas Eve, after going to church then out to dinner with our family. Instead, we went to church with Brooke’s in-laws (and took up an entire pew with our family for once, which was cozy) and had a delicious lasagna dinner at their home. Then we left Brooke there and came home (with Grandma, because she’s visiting this week), where I opened slippers with three of my favorite adults.

Dickens’ most famous character spent his first 50-odd Christmases the same way, too – no different than any other day. He didn’t start the day with whispers and giggles with a sister in the dark, waiting until parents summoned and lead down the stairs without allowing us to see the tree with the new, unwrapped gifts from Santa. I’m sure he worked, planned who to evict the next day, used as little coal as possible, grumbled about his staff taking the day off, and ate gruel for supper.

The night three ghosts visited his him was met with initial gruffness.

I stayed pretty gruff about having to share my sister with another family (she is pretty great, you can’t blame them for wanting to see her and their son) for quite some time.

But as Scrooge began to understand the amazing transformative power that a change in perspective and heart can have, he warmed up to not only Christmas but mankind. He rejoiced in finding that he hadn’t missed the holiday and began generous habits toward his fellow humans.

I love the kind spirit of Christmas, giving individualized gifts to every person in my life, the twinkling lights, the hope of a Savior who meets broken people in the middle of the mess, the candles, the twice-baked potatoes.

I had loved the way we spent Christmas before, the stockings opened one at a time in front of both the yule log and the fireplace (side by side so you aren’t sure which one is actually generating heat and which is just the TV), spending the whole morning with our cozy little foursome, hot cups of coffee, wassail, or Russian tea, a special, carby breakfast, and opening presents, an orderly ordeal where Brooke bags up all the wrapping as it is taken off, distributes presents until the tree is barren, and makes sure we all open one-at-a-time and in order.

I had loved the sweetness and closeness of it, and how our family would often have friends who didn’t have family in town over for Christmas dinner.

But now it’s time for me, like Scrooge, to keep Christmas in a new way, a more open way. Our whole family, actually. We’ve got to learn to share, because marriage isn’t just about compromise between two people.

And Christmas isn’t about sameness. It isn’t about doing the same thing over and over again. It’s about a God who knows that sameness brings stagnation and that a radical intervention is always the way to shake things up.

May we all branch out from the comfort of our routines in this next year. May we see opportunities to draw closer to God and to each other. May we seek out the new and good, living out the spirit of Christmas all year.

 

Unbalanced to unseen.


Ever since one of my friends suggested the possibility I’ve been keenly aware that one of my legs is longer than the other. It’s been a couple weeks now, and sometimes I just sit and wonder at not knowing for so long.

I mean, it’s my body. I should know if one of my legs is longer. One of my feet is bigger. One of my eyes is slightly bigger. My knuckles on that hand are bigger. It’s all on my right side, which could make sense since I’m right-handed.

It just threw me for a loop. I’d lived with having different sized feet and knuckles for a while, but finding out that I likely have been slightly tilted for my entire life was a different, much more fascinating story. Then my other friend said I might not have differently sized legs; no, my pelvis might just be misshapen.

I’m unbalanced. It’s okay. If I was J-Lo or Kim Kardashian, I would have surgery to make them the same length and get a nose job while I was at it.

For these light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that will far outweigh them all.

This is light and momentary. It’s hardly even a trouble. My small physical asymmetry is incredibly light.

But stress isn’t light, life decisions aren’t light, grief isn’t light. Was Paul referring to all earthly trouble when he said that? Was he talking about loneliness and heartbreak? Was he referring to loss and regret?

Earlier in that passage (2 Corinthians 4), Paul says, Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. Gosh, Paul. That’s kind of big. But are your legs the same length?

So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. …That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

I just read the other day the part of 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about all he’s endured for the Gospel. It’s not light. It pretty much encompassed his entire life. But the hope of eternal life with God was enough to make it light. Not that it hurt less, but it meant less. It didn’t determine his future.

What is seen: racial tension, mass murders, exploitation, hints of good amid explosions of not-good, pieces of the Kingdom in the rubble of earth

What is unseen: History – a baby in a manger who grew up to bridge the gap between a God who loves and wants relationship and man who was unloving and didn’t know how much it needed that God, healing, light, life, reconciliation, peace, hope, joy.

The story stays fresh because it’s still relevant. It’s still central to our humanity that we’re broken and in need of someone to sort out our mess. We still need a humble Savior to lead the way.

I’m unbalanced. I’ve got iniquity in one hand paired with pain and grief. It weighs me down, but I cling with the other to my Father’s hand. As we walk, I start to drop my bad habits and painful memories.

For what is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal.

I forget but then I remember


It’s 13 degrees below zero this morning. I’m trying not to complain about it, because then I’ll just feel like a wimp when it gets colder.

We’ve talked about how I named the 2000 Honda civic I drive “Audrey,” after the ever-classy Audrey Hepburn. Audrey’s a classy car, but Audrey does not like the cold.

Unfortunately, we have a two-car garage, which means that Audrey and my sister’s unnamed car sit outside, while my parents’ cars enjoy the protection of four walls and a concrete floor. Snow piles on their hoods and roofs and accumulates around their wheels so I spin when I try to leave for work. Brooke and I are both good friends with our scrapers and brushes. Someday, we dream, we will have garages to call our own. Then we won’t have to scrape our cars every morning. But until then, we scrape.

Every time I put my key in the ignition, Audrey whines for a bit before starting. I don’t blame her; it would be hard to get going after sitting dormant in that weather, even for a few hours. She groans for the first few minutes of mobility and refuses to warm her engine before I reach my destination, usually no more than ten minutes from my house. That way, the air blowing out of the vents never actually becomes heat, which is probably Audrey’s revenge for the cold home I’ve given her.

I spend a lot of time talking to Audrey. Oh, baby. I tell her. You can do it. Just start. Ohhhh, there you go. Okay, let’s go to work. You’re fine. You’ve got gas. I got all the snow off your hood. Yes, I know: I promised you a car wash a week ago, but it’s coming soon. Do you want your doors to freeze shut? *silence* I didn’t think so. 

The coaxing and the little reminders that she is capable of fulfilling her purpose make me feel like a life coach and wonder if that’s how God feels with me. I know it’s cold there. I know it feels like I’m not around sometimes, but I promise you, I’m there. You’ve got my Spirit filling up your tank. I’m scraping off the grime that a fallen world cakes on you. I know, it’s not comfortable, but in the end you’ll shine. You’ll point people to me. When the time is right, the cold weather will end, and I’ll come take you to be with me forever. But until then, I have tasks for you, kingdom building tasks. 

I forget sometimes that God knows what it’s like to be this little person chugging through a world that can be downright unfriendly, even during the most wonderful time of the year. I forget sometimes that He came so that I might know what abundant life is like, that I could be an ambassador to all the people who don’t know what it’s like to live in light. I forget sometimes that He is for me, and His birth to a lowly little family in a stable 2,000 years ago proves that.

I forget about Jesus sometimes and why He’s important, but the story of Christmas and the stories that go with it remind me.

Not Just For Me


I’ve been thinking about baby Jesus a bit in the past few weeks. I’m still finding it pretty remarkable that God would want to put on skin and bones. In my philosophy classes, we’ve talked about how the flesh was seen by the Greeks as a low state of being. Real existence to them wasn’t even manifested in material things but rather in a perfect Idea.

So it’s radical that Jesus, the most perfect being in all that exists, decided to put on skin and bones and live among His creation. Actually, it’s more like insanity. That’s like you or me wanting to become a stick figure in order to connect better with our creations (unless you can draw better than a stick figure… in which case, congratulations are in order). And, even more radical, it’s because He loved too much too stay away, too much to let His creation continue to be separated from Him, even though they created the gap themselves!

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around God’s love for me this semester, because I needed it. I still do, and I bet you do, too. I need to know that God loves me so much and so radically that He would give everything (and did give everything) so that we could have a repaired relationship.

As I’ve thought about this, though, the best part is that it’s for me (hallelujah)… but it’s not just for me.

I don’t understand God’s love. I don’t understand why I can’t understand it, either. I don’t understand how God can love everything but still be untainted by the things that aren’t lovely. I don’t understand how God can love me enough to keep pursuing me when I would rather not be pursued. But I know it’s so big that it covers over all my sins. I know that it’s the kind of love that sends a beloved Son to die and defeat Sin and Death once and for all.

And I know it’s for everyone. I know it’s for the wounded and those who can’t find their way. I know it’s for people who have it all but have nothing. I know it’s for people who hate God or deny Him or think He’s obsolete or thinks He hates them or don’t want Him to exist and mess with their lives. I know it’s for people who are mad at God. It’s for those of us who want to love God with everything but are totally incapable. It’s for food service people and businesspeople and USPS even though they’re always crabby and people who don’t have any clue who God is or what He’s about. It’s for the homeless and the people with home enough for 12 people. It’s for the fatherless and the people with more parents than they know what to do with.

It’s for me.

And it’s for you.

And for everyone else.

Which is insane. And I don’t understand it. But I think the most remarkable things in life are the things I try to grasp and can’t. I think the most incredible truths are the ones beyond me, because that means it’s bigger than me. I don’t need a God I can understand and fit in my box, because then He’s small enough for me to handle.

No, I need a God big enough to love the whole world enough that He would send His only Son so that anyone who accepts the gift could have a real relationship with Him.

Journey to the hope of Christmas


I drove for three hours straight on Saturday, which probably isn’t a big deal for you, but it was a small victory for me. I say small victory because I tense up a bit when driving over 65 mph on a two-lane highway, so after a while I get cramps in my shoulders. Plus, car butt is an even greater reality from the front seat when you have to keep a foot near the gas pedal. It’s something about not allowing myself to stretch for three hours.

I know; this is whiney. I promise there’s a point to all this.

I decided while I was driving through the snowy, barren tree-lined highway of Wisconsin that I like road trips. Maybe I need to add a qualifier to that: I like road trips post-finals. I let my mind wander – not too far, mind you. I’m a good, mindful driver – all over the trees and the road and the snow and the other cars and passengers and the destination and the journey. It only went to my to-do list for a few minutes, in between thoughts about existence and Christmas and journeys.

I’ve written before that I’m a fast walker. I walk for the destination, not to pass the time. While that’s definitely true in winter, when the wind is threatening to remove my outer layer of skin, I’m learning to love the journey. I’m learning that driving in Wisconsin – where there isn’t any cell reception and you can’t stay on a radio station for long because you get out of range in fifteen minutes – promotes curiosity.

You know how a train of thought goes: you start by seeing a farmhouse, then you wonder who lives there and why they’d build a farm so close to a highway, then you wonder if maybe the highway came after they built the farm. Actually the farm was there for hundreds of years (not those buildings you see now, of course), when the city built the highway running through their neighbors’ land (who had to sell so they could move their ailing great-grandma nearer to a hospital). It’s affected how their cheese tastes (because it’s a dairy farm, duh), and now they’re struggling to make ends meet. Or maybe they’re not dairy farmers. They just raise cattle and try to ignore all the cars. Or maybe they like the cars. They put out signs by the highway and sell lots of jelly in the summers and meet all sorts of interesting people.

Then you think about how Jesus was probably born in a barn like that one you’re passing by now. You wonder how Mary endured it. Poor girl: no epidural, no clean sheets, no nice nurse to tell her that it’s going to be okay – just keep pushing. Really, all the conditions were about as bad as they could be. Jesus was born at exactly the right time to exactly the right people, right under the star that would eventually lead the wise men to him, but it doesn’t seem optimal, does it? For one thing, what can a baby do for a people who’ve been oppressed by the Romans for so long? Didn’t they need a strong political leader or a military man?

But then Jesus grows in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man, and He eats with sinners and heals the diseased. He calls the pious, oppressive religious leaders of the day snakes and washes His disciples’ feet. He tells people to go and sin no more, provides good wine for a wedding, and loves people who were quite certain that they were unlovable. He shows us how we are to live, what a life in close communion with God looks like, and how to bring the kingdom of God to earth.

It seems like enough. It seems like Jesus could have just done that, but we know that God didn’t just put on skin to change the way the world works and to show us how to live. He put on skin and plopped Himself in a manger so that one day He could die and come back to life to repair the broken relationship that we had with Him. He said, I want to be close to you. So close that I’ll do something that no other god has even thought of. I’ll put on flesh. I’ll lower myself to the point of serving those I created. I’ll lower myself even further, to the grave.

But then, three days after I’m dead, when you think all hope is lost, I’ll come back to life to show that I can restore anything. I can fix what is broken and be in communion with my people. 

That’s the hope of Christmas, that Jesus came to us, in the lowliest way possible so that He could redeem and be in relationship with those he created – all of them.

I’m going to stand in awe of that this Christmas, to rejoice that my Savior didn’t ask me to complete a list of tasks or play a spiritual game of chutes and ladders to get to Him. Instead, He came to me.

Bearing like Mary.


Get excited, I’m blogging twice in one week for the first time in a long time.

Here’s what’s been going on since we last talked:

1. Papers

2. Packing

3. I spilled tea on the couch and have to sit on the floor as punishment.

4. Papers

5. Packing

6. Papers

7. Reading

8. Packing

9. Baking (in excess)

10. Trudging around in the snow and loving every second of it. The second half of that sentence won’t last long.

I’ve also been thinking about Mary’s story, because it’s the Christmas season. I’m beginning to realize that we have a lot in common. I’ve typically heard Mary presented as the epitome of following God when He asks you to do something or as an example that God uses unlikely people to do amazing things (e.g. 14 year old girls to be the mother of the son of God).

But now I’m starting to think that Mary might be more human than that. Let’s rehash her story, shall we? Mary was a teenage virgin (the Bible’s very clear about that. It’s one of the only things we know about her specifically) who was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. Then one day, her whole world gets flipped around when an angel comes to her and tells her that she’s about to become pregnant with a baby boy who will be called the Son of the Most High.

The angel gives her a name for the child to save her the stress of having to come up with one (likely not the real reason but also very nice of him. Can you imagine trying to pick out a name for the son of God?) and leaves.

Mary’s response? “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to your word.”

The Bible doesn’t say that she leaped around or jumped for joy. It doesn’t give us a facial expression for her or a tone of voice or any clue as to how she was feeling, but I think I have a guess.

I bet she felt a little bit confused, maybe a bit defeated. I think that’s how I would feel. She was doing so well in life with her betrothal to Mr. Joseph and all that. Now she’d have the Hester Prynne stigma (even though that book came about 1700 years later). And as incredible as it sounds to be the mother of God, I bet she didn’t feel up to the job.

I can imagine the thoughts going on in her head:

I know I should feel honored, but I didn’t do anything to merit this honor. I don’t think I’m ready. I just want a normal life. I know God will use me in great ways and that my whole life will be remarkable because of this, but it looks so foreign and complicated. I might have this stigma as the pregnant teen for the rest of my life. People won’t know he’s the son of God right away, will they? Will He come out with a halo? What am I going to tell Joseph? I barely know the man, and now I have to explain this whole scenario to him. He won’t believe me. What if he leaves me? I just want order! I just want God to use me in smaller ways, in ways I can manage. I never asked for this. I don’t even know what to do with a regular baby, much less a holy one! 

I think God asks us to bear what we’re not prepared for. I think He wants to be born in our lives through something we never expected and can’t bear on our own. In a sense, this year I’ve had my own type of pregnancy (don’t get the wrong idea, I’m definitely not pregnant), bearing some things that are going to bear fruit in my life and change me so that God can use me. I know this, in my head. I know that my struggles are here to bring God glory, but it’s still hard.

It’s still difficult to swallow the responsibility. It’s not like God says, Hello, I want to use you, not because of anything you are but because I want to partner with you because I love you and want to use you for my Kingdom purposes. You are going to have an integral role there. (apparently God speaks in run-on sentences) and we respond with confetti. No, God says all that, and we feel like we’ve been hit with a two-by-four. That’s realistic. I’m 90% certain that Mary felt that way, at least at some point.

This is where I’ve learned to lean. I’m certain that Mary learned the same thing, that it isn’t shameful to be dependent. Really, that’s the only way that you’ll be able to bear the weight of God’s work. That’s what He wants us to do. He gives us something to bear and an arm to cling to while we bear it. That way, when we move into the work that He was preparing for, we’re used to depending on Him. It’ll be about Him and not about us. We’ll know where our strength comes from and constantly return to be filled up again.

I want to be like Mary this Christmas, to be stunned that God would ask me to bear something for Him and to lean on Him while I wait for it to be born in my life.

Astounding.


Sometimes I come across a long-forgotten word that needs to be re-added to my vocabulary.  It’s like a reunion with an old friend.  Today, that word is “astounding.”

Astound, def: “shock or greatly surprise” (dictionary.com to the rescue)

synonyms: astonish – amaze – flabbergast – surprise – stupefy

As in:

The most astounding part of Christmas day was when my parents surprised me with a new guitar that I thought I wouldn’t be getting  until after Christmas.

Or:

But actually, the most astounding part of Christmas is in its history, in the story of the first Christmas when God came to earth in the form of a baby born in a stable.

The images that come to mind here of people who are astounded are of frozen, wide-eyed people with gaping mouths and slack jaws.  Sometimes hands are in the air in astonishment.  I think this word is on a whole nuther level from “surprise.”  You surprise someone by sticking a chocolate chip cookie and a note in their lunchbox.  You astonish them by showing up in the lunchroom with President Obama, who just dropped by on Air Force One to say “Happy Birthday, Billy.”

I don’t see this word used that often, except in book and movie reviews, oddly enough.  And perhaps that’s a look at my life, maybe yours too.  I’m not astonished very often.  I mean, I’m not some rough and tough, seen-it-all 18 year old (that’s on oxymoron right there).  I do jump when people come up behind me without my knowledge.  And I do jump when things happen suddenly in a movie.

But that’s surprise.  I picture astonishment as a moment outside of time, where you pause – whether because something is just so extraordinary that you can’t help it or because you stop for the purpose of noticing – and allow yourself to be astonished.  Maybe it’s about taking the time to be amazed.

I’m going to look for something astounding today.  Let me know if you happen across anything.

 

Frigid Christmas.


It’s hard to me to imagine the stable in Bethlehem minus the snow.  But I’m pretty sure that the Mediterranean (yep, just looked it up on wikipedia. no shame in that) climate would make that highly unlikely.  Good for Mary.  A stable would be enough of a discomfort while having a baby, without frigid temperatures and frozen precipitation.

This morning, I was going to keep reading in Psalms as I have been, but when I initially opened my Bible, it was to Esther chapter 3.  I normally would keep flipping til I got to my ribbon bookmark, but today I was drawn to that story.  Quick recap: Esther is Jewish.  Esther becomes the queen of Persia when King Xerxes decides to marry her (she’s gorgeous, apparently).  Haman is a highly ranked palace official, and Mordecai is Esther’s cousin-turned-adoptive-father who also “sits at the king’s gates” by occupation.

Since Mordecai is Jewish and worships God alone, he won’t bow to Haman.  Haman gets mad and decides to kill all the Jews. (little overreaction, huh?)  So he sets up a decree with the King.  Mordecai hears about this and convinces Esther that she needs to intervene.  So – long story short – Esther risks her life to convince the King to issue a decree that reverses the Jews’ fate.  Then Haman is killed instead of all of the Jews. (Questions?  read the book of Esther.)

There was a point to telling you all of that.  I promise.

That was a story of redemption.  It was a story of God using Esther to save His chosen people from destruction.  He used royalty and decrees to save His people from being killed – and to give them an opportunity to clear out the Amalekites (it’s in the story, not the recap).

What a stark contrast to the biggest redemption plan of them all!  Queen Esther, Baby Jesus… born in a cattle stall… to an unwed couple… with shepherds as the first visitors (apparently a lot of shepherds in that day were ex-cons, also very low in the social ladder)… and almost as soon as He is born, Herod tried to kill Him.

It’s a humble beginning for Jesus. Every human element in this story is about as humble as it can be.  Young girl, with really nothing to recommend her to be Jesus’ mother other than the fact that she was obedient when asked.  An undoubtedly dingy and smelly stable where animals witnessed the birth.  No room in the inn for the King of the world.  Shepherds come with nothing to offer – and the wise men come late since they had such a long distance to travel.

The angels are really the only thing to jazz this event up.  They’re definitely not a human element, and they serve to guide the lowly shepherds to meet the baby.

I bet that totally changed the shepherds’ lives.  Talk about an encounter with God.

Why come so humbly?  Just to shake things up?  I suppose if He’d come as people expected, as a king with power and an army, anyone could recognize that He was Lord.  If he comes as a baby and is known for preaching the kingdom of God and living it out as he gets older and begins his ministry, it takes a real seeker to acknowledge Him as Lord.  Maybe that’s not God’s reasoning.  All I know is that it shows great love for the God of the universe to step down from the throne in the perfectness of Heaven to be born in a stable.

What wondrous love is this.