Each day during this year's Advent season, I will be sharing a devotional here to help aid our hearts in preparing for the coming of Christ. These come from a book entitled "Come, Let Us Adore Him" by Paul Tripp. I pray that these thoughts will aid your heart in worship.
God became a child so that through his life, death, and resurrection, we might become the children of God.
I love a good novel. I love to watch a skilled author carefully and creatively develop the personality profile and the backstory of every character. I love how the author paints each scene and location with well-chosen words. I love the twist and turns, the surprises, and the building of the drama of a well-crafted plot. And I love how the novelist can take you away to another place and paint pictures in your mind that, as you read, seem more real than the real things around you. There is nothing like a good story.
I decided to write this Advent devotional because I’m persuaded that our lives are defined by story. There is always some big, overarching story that becomes your tool for understanding your personal story. For my dad, World War II was the defining story of his life, and he never let go of that story until the day he died. For my mom, the story of growing up in a very large and sadly abusive home was an influential, identity-shaping story in her life. Maybe for you it’s the story of an ancestor’s immigration to America or the story of economic loss. Maybe it’s the story of an accident, illness, or injury that has had power to define you. Or it could be the story of life in the inner city or in the suburbs that interprets for you who you are. We all carry stories with us, and the stories that we carry become the means by which we make sense of the individual stories that we live every day.
So I decided to write this devotional so you would carry with you the greatest true story ever told. I wrote this devotional so you would embed your little personal story in the larger story of redemption. My hope in writing is that this devotional would stimulate you to live with a birth-of-Jesus mentality. My prayer is that the story of the birth, life, and sacrifice of Jesus would be the story that would shape everything in your life. I hope that whether it’s your finances, your marriage, your work, your sexual life, your friendships, your education, your leisure, or your future, that you would make sense of every dimension of your life through the lens of what the Christmas story tells you about life.
Because the Christmas story is meant to help you interpret and understand your story, it’s important to slow down and take time to meditate upon this amazing story of mind-blowing grace. I love the work of the abstract expressionist painters, and one of my favorites is Barnett Newman. So I was excited when I learned that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City was showing an extensive exhibit of Newman’s work. The masterpiece of the exhibit was a painting entitled Vir Heroicus Sublimis (Man, heroic and sublime). VHS is 7’11” tall and 17’9” wide. It is a stunning field of red, but not just a single layer of red; layer after layer of thinned red paint makes you feel that you could step into the red world that is before you. Newman instructed the viewer not to stand way back from the painting to view it, which is your instinct when you try to view a huge canvas. Newman wanted you to get as close as the museum would allow, so that you would feel that you were being enveloped by a sea of gloriously bright and endlessly deep red. So when I got to the gallery, I did as Newman advised. The red is so redly red that as you stand up close, you forget where you are; you’re no longer distracted by what’s around you, and you find yourself filled with serene amazement.
I am persuaded that this is why God retained all the details of the Christmas story around us. We are so quickly forgetful. We can be so easily distracted. The further we stand away from the Christmas story the less we are gripped with the life-changing wonder of knowing that God became a child so that we would no longer be separate from God, but would be now and forever the children of God. You and I need to get so close to this story that it envelops and changes us. We need to get so close to this story that it overwhelms any other defining story that we have carried around with us. We need to get up close so we can hear the song of the angels and feel the fearful, excited wonder of the shepherds. We need to get up close so we can sense the amazement of Mary and Joseph as they grasp to understand what it means that their baby boy was born by the Holy Spirit to Mary, who was still a virgin. You and I need to get up close to the Christmas story so we can look into the manger at the baby Jesus and consider the fact that in the manger lies One who is fully God and fully baby boy.
Tomorrow you will reach for a story to make sense out of what is happening in your story. Tomorrow you will use that story as your interpretive tool more times than you will be aware. My prayer is that the story you will reach for will be the story of how God became a man so that we who were alienated and separated from him would become his children. And my prayer is that as you live with the glory of a birth-of-Jesus mentality, it will cause you to carry with you the security of a child-of-God identity.
For further study: 1 John 3:1–3