Put out the China?
#DoYouPutOuttheChina is the podcast for December 25, 2017 (Christmas). If the Lord were to come to visit, would you put out the china, make a room comfy and clean for him? Does he expect that from you? The Feast of the Nativity, Christmas, has a very different set of expectations from the Lord on how we are to greet him. You may just be surprised. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone.#Luke2 #Christmas #China #ComfyRoom #Isaiah #Jeremiah #DevilTricks #Micah #Manger #Mess #Manure #Donkey #Animal #Smelly #GregoryofNazianzen
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For The Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Monday, 12/25/2017 The Feast of the Nativity, Christmas.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 2:1-14.
What if God were coming to your house? How would you prepare if you knew he was coming? Please think about this for a while.
Those of us who are Christians can fall into two traps very easily. We can think that we have to earn God’s love, so we try to make ourselves perfect for God. The Devil likes this train of thought because he tells all kinds of people that God hates them because they will never escape their sin. So, he says over and over to us, “You are not good enough for God.” In our “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, in a competitive world, we all grab ahold of this. I think it means we can take credit for our advancement, plus we can put the emphasis on what we have achieved. On the dark end of this trap is the idea that we will never meet God’s standards, therefore, we should throw up our hands and quit following or quit believing.
The second trap is thinking that God wants us to pretend that we are sparkly clean. In this trap, then, we do not tell God the truth about our feelings, emotions, and beliefs. We pretend that he cannot know our heart and we then fool God by fooling ourselves. We paper over our flaws, pretend they do not exist or we make excuses for why they are someone else’s fault.
In either one of these scenarios, we would end up putting the fine china out for God if he came to visit. On one level, this is awesome. We are showing that we respect the Father in Heaven. Yet, that is not what the Father in Heaven wants. We know this because of Christmas.
Luke tells us that the Birth of Jesus came during a census when Quirinius was the Governor. There has been much ink spilt over the accuracy of time lines, etc. I suppose that may be a worthy endeavor, but the true point is that Luke wants us to know that the Lord breaks into human history. The birth of the God-man happened on this earth. The Father in Heaven wanted the Son to become Jesus in real time, in our time.
That is important. It is important because the coming of the Lord is not a concept. The coming of the Lord is not a fantasy. The coming of the Lord is real. He came during the reign of a governor when a census was taken, which made his foster father, Joseph, take him to Bethlehem where he would fulfill the Jewish Scriptures. The prophet Micah said as much:
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
The child born, is the Messiah, which has no meaning outside of being the fulfillment of the Jewish covenant with the Lord. It has great meaning because it means that the Lord, the God of the Universe is concerned with human history, human lives; the lives of the poor, the lives of the outcast, the messy lives of people, my life, your life. (pause)
If we were to prepare for the Visitation of our Lord, then we would probably get the best room ready. We would make sure it was cleaned, swept, with the best sheets, the trash bin emptied. We would probably turn up the heat a little more than we usually do to make sure it was comfortable. We would make sure that it was fit for a King.
Yet, that is not how the King of kings and Lord of lords comes. The small little town of Bethlehem’s planning department did not make sure it had enough hotel and motel space available for the coming census. There were no rooms available for the Virgin very pregnant with child, riding on a bouncy donkey, and her weary honorable husband. So, they took a manger, that is an animal pen, an animal stall. No clean sheets for the Savior of the Universe! The place is a mess. The smell of manure permeates. The dirt in your feet and all over your body is inescapable. The smell of the animals mixes with the other vexing aromas. The place has a trough where the animals put their dripping snouts. Exposed to the heat during the day and the chill of the night, this is not exactly the “birthing suite” we have come to expect from our hospitals.
This entry into the dirty existence of our lives in a manger fulfills what Jeremiah said,
O hope of Israel,
its savior in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler turning aside for the night?
And Isaiah said,
The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib;
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.
The manger is important. The Lord of the Universe, the Logos, the Word made flesh, enters our lives when they are a mess. He goes to places that even we do not want to go. He comes to us when we feel dirty, when we are dirty. He enters our lives when we feel like life is a mess, when we are a mess. He accepts the conditions of the manger because he accepts the conditions of our lives. He comes to sit on our worn out couch. He walks on our carpet that needs replacing. He comes to our home, our person, with its list of undone repairs. (Pause)
If God were visiting us, we would probably invite all the people we know who would not embarrass us. We would invite people who would welcome him with civility, proper etiquette, and who could make us look good. We would NOT invite shepherds!
Good grief! Shepherds hardly ever bathed. They were out in the fields with sheep ALL the time. They walked with the sheep. They ate with the sheep. They slept with the sheep. They smelled like the sheep. Who even knows about their dental hygiene! That was their reputation. These are the people the Lord came to first. This is why powerful people don’t get God. He has no need to impress. He has service to perform.
Coming to the lowest means that He came for all (not just those who could make themselves better or those who could pretend a good game). Everyone is included: the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly. Everyone is included. That includes even the very young, especially the very young.
It is not an accident that the Father in Heaven, when he wants to renew the face of the earth, he comes as a baby. Babies are so perfect it seems. They are cute, smell good, are unassuming, totally dependent upon us. The God of the Universe, who made the heavens and the earth, came and allowed himself to be vulnerable to us. Think of that for a moment. There were no demands that we bow down. There were no demands that we give him the best room, the best food, the best spot. He came vulnerable to us. Our God allows himself to be vulnerable to us!
Coming as a baby also means that he wanted to experience life as we experienced it. It ended up on the Cross, so that he would know the immense suffering that we experience. Yet, before we focus on the negative aspects of being human, what about the wonderment of being born and having an opportunity to live life? Life is a gift, no matter how hard, or how wonderful. On the one end we can be grateful that he knows what it is like, on the other, we can rejoice he made it so good.
He enters our lives, just as we are, unassuming, and brings hope and joy. Saint Gregory of Nazianzen said, “What he was, he laid aside; what he was not, he assumed. He took upon himself the poverty of flesh so that I may receive the riches of his divinity.”
Leave the china in the cabinet, the Lord is coming to be with you, just as you are. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian