Monday, December 28, 2009

A Christmas Reflection

Why Did God Choose?

I attended a Jim Brickman concert this past Monday night at the Hershey Theater and among the last few people to get settled into their seats was a couple that had seats right in front of us. They were a middle aged couple perhaps just a bit older that Tina and me. The theater was packed, and just as this couple was seated a man took the stage to give the usual announcements about turning off cell phones and those sorts of things. He also announced that following the concert all those who were members of the Jim Brickman VIP club should come down and take a seat in the front rows, and they would have a chance to meet him and the other musicians who would be performing that night. The gentleman of this couple excitedly took out his Jim Brickman VIP badge and showed it to his wife. I could tell from his body language that he was excited to be at this concert.

For those of you who don’t know who Jim Brickman is, he describes himself as America’s leading romantic pianist. While he is no doubt a very gifted piano player, he does not show off with his music. He just plays nice, soothing music, and on this evening he did some very creative arrangements of Christmas carols and other holiday music which were performed by him along with a small ensemble consisting of two singers, a violin player, and a percussionist. All of the audience members that sat around us seemed pleased to be there, and ready to listen, but not quite like this man. As Mr. Brickman took the stage this gentleman excitedly clapped not only with his hands, but his entire body, as he shook with excitement.

But it was here that the evening took a dramatic turn. Just as the first few notes were being played the last person sitting in the row in front of us finally arrived…and wouldn’t you know it his seat was in the middle of the row. So everybody, including the couple front of us had to stand up to let him in completely blocking our view of the stage. And just then the woman sitting right behind Tina yelled, in a voice for the entire theater to hear, “Sit down, I can’t see!” The man’s wife turned and in a stern but muffled voice told the lady to calm down. I started worrying about having to break up a fight, but after everyone was settled into their seats, it did get quiet again, as this man was not going to allow his evening to be ruined by a lady’s bad attitude. After each piece he would clap enthusiastically, and then eagerly lean forward in his seat for the next piece to start. Those of us around him couldn’t help but notice that he was appreciating this concert on a very different level than the rest of us. Everybody was certainly enjoying the evening, but this man was soaking up every note… every moment… as if it were the most important thing that he had ever been a part of.

It made me think about how we approach Christmas. I can certainly appreciate that over the course of time Christmas loses some of its magic. This is only natural as the central figure of the secular celebration of Christmas and his transportation system become more symbolic than real. But we should never, no matter what our age, lose the stirring of emotion that comes when we stop to fully comprehend and appreciate the gift that God gives to us in the birth of this little, vulnerable child, born to confused and homeless parents, in a poor and forgotten part of the world. Perhaps we need to be a bit more like this middle aged man who looked forward to the gift of this concert like a four year old child approaching the Christmas tree on Christmas morning viewing the assortment of neatly wrapped presents that were not there when she went to bed the night before.

While we often blame it on busyness, perhaps part of the reason that we leave the true inner experience of Christmas at arm’s length year after year is the difficulty that we have in understanding the choices God made to accomplish the task of placing his presence on earth in a human being.

After all, why would God choose to have Jesus be born into poverty, to an unmarried couple who was far from home, and seemingly ill prepared for this birth? Why not choose a married couple with some means to at least provide a home for this child.

Why would God choose a forgotten village in a forgotten corner of the world? Why not choose Rome or Alexandria, why Israel? And if Israel, why not Jerusalem? But God chose Bethlehem, not Jerusalem.

Why would God choose to be born in a stable full of barn animals, which amounted to being little more than a motel parking lot? And why would God choose a manger (which is a more romantic word for a cow’s feeding trough), for the first crib in which this Holy Baby would be cradled?

Such imperfection by our standards. Such an odd way of accomplishing what needed to be done.

But could it be that God chose such an imperfect scenario so that we could understand God’s wanting to find a place to be within the imperfections of our own lives? Could it be that God would choose to be born to a confused teenager, and her unsuspecting fiancĂ©e, just so that we would know that our confusion could also be a place where a Savior could be found? Could it be that God might choose this young couple, far removed from home and family and friends, so that we might understand God’s presence in the seeming loneliness and broken relationships of our own lives?

Could it be that God would choose the extreme poverty into which Jesus was born so that we might understand that wealth has nothing to do with spiritual fulfillment, as a matter of fact seeking wealth at all costs might even get in the way? So no matter what your economic reality right now, Christ can and will be present.
Could it be that through this unlikely birth God would reach out and choose even you to be a child of God? Could it be that God would reach out and chose even me?

Yes… the answer is yes! And as we continue with our celebreation of Christmas, as we attend services of worship, as we visit with friends and family, and as we take time to be quiet, I would invite you to allow your heart to be stirred, that you might allow the tear in your eye to roll freely down your cheek, that you might welcome the lump in your throat, that you might allow your voice to quiver as you sing an old familiar Christmas Carol, that you might once again allow Christ to be born into your life and receive him with enthusiasm and hope. Might we too lean forward in anticipation of where God might be taking us next in our life?

Might we, from the bottom of our hearts, join with Mary proclaiming these words to all around us: “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Why would God choose? God chooses because God so loved world, that he gave to us a Son, and his name is Jesus.

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