Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Releasing, Dec 19
He expands our hearts as we release (Advent week 3 day 6).
When Jesus, the Messiah, entered into human history, He did so in an incredibly quiet and vulnerable manner. Indeed, could it have been any quieter? He was born into a poor, common family in an out of the way place. He wasn’t born in the most important city of his country. He wasn’t born in the most important country in his region. He was born in a country that was under foreign occupation.
Why were things so quiet? Why didn’t He come with fanfare and publicity and Messiah written across the sky in flashing lights? All would have been possible but not consistent with God’s character. He never forces Himself on us. He will not demand …
The Scriptures tell us that wise men (magi) came to the Christ child (Matthew 2:1-12). They were not, however, on the scene the night Jesus was born. They showed up at some point in the first two years. The wise men saw a star from their homes in the East (likely Persia) and discerned that it was a king. Notice that Jesus’ birth and its significance was lost on those who were much closer, those who knew the prophecies of Scripture. These wise men noticed … they saw what others did not. And then, they listened to what they saw and came to worship. We don’t know a lot more about the wise men, but The Magnificent Defeat, Frederick Buechner, imagines what might have happened to the wise men: (as told by one of them)
“But why did we go? I could not tell you now, and I could not have told you then, not even as we were in the very process of going. Not that we had no motive but that we had so many. Curiosity, I suppose: to be wise is to be eternally curious, and we were very wise. We want to see for ourselves this One before whom even the stars are said to bow down – to see perhaps if it was really true because even the wise have their doubts. And longing. Longing. Why will a man who is dying of thirst crawl miles across sands as hot as fire at simply the possibility of water? Why will a man labor and struggle all the days of his life so that in the end he has something to give the one he loves?”
“I will tell you two terrible things. What we saw on the face of the new-born child was his death. A fool could have seen it as well. It sat on his head like a crown or a bat, this death he would die. And we saw, as sure as the earth beneath our feet, that to stay with him would be to share that death, and that is why we left – giving only our gifts, withholding the rest.”
“And now, brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also to myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him is the only life?”
Indeed, it makes sense that the wise men saw the jealousy of King Herod and his murderous plans to kill any children within the age range of Jesus, and thought: “we’re out of here.” What they didn’t understand is that we find true life when we let go of our perceived sense of life. How often do we come with our gifts but leave with our life, as we know it, intact? Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
The word “save” speaks of protecting and holding on and “losing” speaks of letting go. The irony of “protecting” what we perceive to be “life” is that we will miss out on what is “truly life.” We have a tendency to hold on to all kinds of things (things that we think we control) to give us life. The paradox of Jesus’ statement in Luke is that we are actually imprisoned by that which we cling to for life … they slowly kill us. He alone gives life in the freedom of relationship with Him. It is a life that is free because He does all the “holding” and we are free to use our hands to love Him and others. We are free to enjoy what is, not live imprisoned by what is not. We are free from needing anything because in Christ, we have everything.
Ignatius of Loyola wisely offers:
“Detachment comes only if we have a stronger attachment; therefore our one dominating desire and fundamental choice must be to live in the loving presence and wisdom of Christ, our Savior.”
Jesus won’t pry our hands off of our life. He invites us to let go (to detach) which will happen as we have a vision for what is better. We struggle because we have mixed emotions about what we cling to for life. We have mixed emotions about what Jesus says is life (Him alone). Alan Jones shares that:
“The task of love is … to lay us bare, to set us free. But we love the prison-house. The plan of bondage is, at least, familiar. Love, then, comes as an unwelcome shock. The very thing we think we want, we dread.”
Jesus models this way of “detached” living in Philippians 2 …”though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Two observations and two questions flow from this text:
- His “equality with God” was not something He “grasped” or literally, “used for his own advantage. Jesus’ most significant personal reality (His deity) was not something that He used for Himself. How do you view the “strengths” of your life (and we all have them)?
- He “made himself nothing” or literally, “he poured himself out.” Jesus let go of his life so that he could love. What do you need to let go of?
Sit with those questions and ask a good, gracious Father who only wants to give life.
Father, I admit that I am a bundle of paradoxes. I want to live in You alone. I confess this is my deepest desire and yet I have other desires. Today, give me the courage to let go. Give me the strength to repent. Give me eyes to see those places of strength to which I cling that I might release all to You. Thank you for Your patience and grace and leading in my life. Enlarge my heart. Amen.
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