PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE
God came to earth wrapped in an ordinary package. His birthing room had a dirt floor, his crib contained remnants of dried animal feed, and instead of “Lullaby” being played over a hospital loud speaker at the birth of a child, there was a mixed chorus of animals braying loudly, possibly over the intrusion of this couple and their baby.
Here is a simple illustration of how that happened. In that land called heaven, the Son, Jesus, stood up one day, gave the Father and the Spirit a good-bye hug, and made a bold, gigantic decision, all in obedience to the Father. The Son stepped off of the glittering streets, outside of the abundance of rainbow colors that dripped wonderful smells of beauty, and became a tiny seed inside the womb of a young woman. The seed grew into a baby who later moved into the sin, dirt, and humanity of earth. Upon first opening his eyes in his new home, he saw darkness. He took his first breath and smelled stench. His ears heard animals screeching.
And while human life would become painfully ugly and hurtful on earth, the Son brought with him a manual of instructions handed to him by his Father, a manual that contained many promises. Best of all was the promise that his relationship with God and the Spirit would be unbroken. He clung to that knowledge and counted on this relationship to remain secure. This would be the only way that he would have the strength to keep going, even when His physical body knew complete exhaustion, rejection, and eventually murder.
And so, on an ordinary night in an ordinary town in an ordinary and rough cave used for a stable, surrounded by ordinary animals and two very ordinary parents, God became man, and, as Eugene Peterson in The Message writes, “moved into our neighborhood.”
Before the shepherds were given this celestial message by the angels, those shepherds stood on a hillside, dressed in quite ordinary clothes and would now be sent to find a baby that was anything but ordinary.
At first there was a huge orchestra of voices appearing in the heavens exclaiming in rich voices some very unordinary news. No wonder the shepherds were afraid. Shepherds were poor and uneducated, and because they lived among the sheep, they carried an odor everywhere they went. For that reason, they were not allowed in the Temples. They weren’t allowed in the synagogues. But they would be allowed at the birth of Jesus. This astounding fact gives me a deeper look into the God I serve: He is most comfortable around the ordinary, and that should make the ordinary comfortable around Him.
Jesus rarely comes where we expect. He appears where we least expect Him, and in the most illogical situations. On this very ordinary day, God sent a message to ordinary people like you and me. His message was and is, “I love the ordinary. No matter what your sins or transgressions in 2017 or before, I love you and I forgive you. I reach out especially to the poor, the hurting, the lonely, the unsuccessful, and I say, ‘Come unto me all ye who are burdened and heavy laden. I came to bring you peace.’”
Today, because of God’s extraordinary reach to ordinary people, you and I are caught up in the wonder of seeing royalty wrapped in ordinary humanity, lying in a manger and sending this intimate message to you: “I came for the ordinary. I died for the ordinary. Never let anyone make you feel that you are not worthy of my love.”
To make this story even better, Jesus came to set us free from our own wounded natures, promising to help us overcome earth’s descending pull. He even desires a relationship with us, will sprinkle his love all over us, and will promise to stay by our side as we seek holiness above the ordinary. What a beautiful story, made real by the fact that millions of followers testify to their changed lives!
Thanks be to God. Because of Jesus, ordinary people like us will forever be wrapped in royalty.
The Rev. B.J. Funk is associate pastor of Central UMC in Fitzgerald. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.