Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Opening, Dec 22
God the Son entered human history in the most vulnerable of ways. He didn’t come with a great show of overt strength but as a baby. There is perhaps nothing more vulnerable, more fragile, more needy than a baby. He physically grew as a fetus in a young girl’s womb. Such a display of poverty was not for no purpose.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
Consider this: He left all His eternal glory in heaven as the second member of the Trinity to become poor. Why? So that we might be rich! So that we might move from living as vulnerable, poor, needy people into strong, unshakable people. If it is not clear at this point, Jesus is not speaking of monetary riches and poverty although material things are not disconnected from what He is saying. In fact, as a human race, we tend to fundamentally misunderstand the concepts of poverty and wealth. It is this misunderstanding, ironically, that leaves us in a place of poverty and weakness spiritually.
We also are born into the world as poor, needy, vulnerable beings. From birth, embedded within us is a sense of need. We need some sort of stability and protection to make it through life. We know this intuitively. Our parents, at best, nurture and tutor us to find our strength in God, but at worst we learn an inferior and damaging way of being in the world. We learn to amass material things in order to feel strong. Indeed, we long to be “rich” but we misunderstand our true longing for “spiritual richness” found in Christ as a longing for material riches.
In the process, the purpose of material things gets flipped. Material things were created to give a context, or a platform, for expressing spiritual realities. Part of the eternal nature of God is that He gives and receives within the Godhead. Father, Son, and Spirit are continually giving to one another. God gives to us so that we can live out that pattern of giving to others. This is the “essence of richness” … giving. However, we tend to look at material things as an opportunity to get rid of our longing to feel secure and strong. Instead of receiving and giving, we get stuck in a cycle of taking and keeping.
In Jesus’ words in Revelation 3 that we might “open the door” of our hearts, he counsels those who say they are “rich.” He says: you don’t realize you are “poor.” His counsel is simple:
“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:16-18)
Over the next three reflections, we’ll look at these three items which Jesus’ counsels us to buy: gold refined by fire, white garments, and eye salve. Today, gold? What is the gold that we buy from Him? First, it is significant to know that the concept of “buying” is a play on words for those who believe they are rich. God is gracious and bestows all things without cost. The metaphor would seem to be one of acquiring or obtaining. Second, the gold refined by fire is a reference to eternal, spiritual riches. Notice the description in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15:
“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
The works of man that stand God’s judgment are those things which reflect His character. At the heart of God’s character is the receiving and giving of love. That which we do as a reflection of His love, giving to others, is gold refined by fire! So, how do we buy that kind of gold? Consider the words of 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Three beautiful, challenging ideas spring from the text:
- Do not be arrogant. The basic idea of arrogance is that we perceive ourselves to be center of things. So, the idea here is simply that we join God in what He is doing rather than asking Him to join us. How often are our prayers “join me” prayers rather than “how do I join You” prayers? It may seem like a subtle distinction but it has huge ramifications.
- Do not put your hope in wealth. This is the issue of our age. We believe that wealth can solve our problems. We believe that wealth can bring the stability for which we long. This is a complete inversion of the truth. The most significant issue is that material things were never created to do that. Material things can’t do that. Riches might give the fleeting perception that all is well but it is fleeting at best.
- Be generous. This is how we enjoy the gifts of Christmas. We take hold of the “life that is truly life” when we enact that story of “receive and give” rather than “take and keep.”
Jesus came so that we might be generous to others. He came to rescue of from the prison of self where we use material things as a protection against vulnerability … where the very walls of protection become more like prison walls. How do we experience His freedom? By joining Him in what He is doing … letting go of the false hope of wealth … and then giving to others.
The great spiritual writer and reformer, Teresa of Avila, wrote:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which Christ is to bless all people now.”
This is life … to join Him, using whatever resources we have to be a part of His life. This is our invitation, our call. “Our heart must expand with all the love of heaven, to love all that God loves, to love God in all, to love with the love which God Himself gives, and whereby He makes us one with Himself.” (Richard Meux Benson, SSJE)
Stop and feel your neediness, your vulnerability. Consider that no amount of money can ever take away the vulnerable reality that you are hurtling through a huge universe of blackness on a tiny, little speck of dirt called earth. As you feel that, remember that our security and strength only comes from joining Him in His purposes. Our lives are in His hands. Ask God: Father, with my one life, how can I serve you today? To whom can I give today? Make a choice to give today … do something generous. When you do, you are opening space in your heart for Him because you are abandoning the lie that life is about you. Then, you are truly rich.
Father, I open myself to you. Letting go of all else, I come to you with empty, open hands. I entrust myself to You, believing that true riches, true worth, and true vision come only from You. Yes, Lord, have Your way in me. Thank You for Jesus who redeems me from the pit of self and into the joy of You. Amen.