Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Advent Meditation: The Cost of the Incarnation

Not to toot my own horn too much, but I've always had a nice singing voice. I think this must somehow come from my dad's side because my sister has a nice voice, too, but you sure wouldn't guess this from the way my dad sings. Any natural ability I had was enhanced by the fact that I grew up singing Disney tunes, church hymns, and soulful oldies- the common denominator? Melody driven music that requires actual singing rather than breathily whispering to a beat as seems to be the current fashion.
This ability secured me several prime roles in school musicals. I was Mrs. Noah in first grade- rave reviews, let me tell you. Then in third grade, I was one of a trio of featured angels in the Christmas play who sang a special song in the interlude. I was soooo sick the day before the performance. Actually, now that I'm thinking about this, I'm pretty sure this was the year that I puked behind the risers and my friend Alisha slipped in it. Probably too much information.
In any case, I recovered enough to make the performance. I rocked my faux alto that I thought was tres chic (this was before embracing my inner 2nd soprano) and sang my part of the song. It was a song basically talking about how destructive mankind is and how puzzling it was that God cared about them at all. I remember the chorus: "We really don't understand (man is by nature a sinner), Why God should bother with man (man is by nature a sinner)."
This chorus has been running through my head this Advent season. One of the pros of going to a liturgically heavy church is the emphasis on the ebb and flow of the church calendar. We have proudly lit our Advent wreath for weeks now, reminding ourselves that the big day is just around the corner (delighting children with our church sponsored Christmas countdown). Advent is the time of year where we are meant to revel in anticipation... our culture has converted this into a manic season of hurry and scurry that we now all enjoy and dread.
As I've been trying to still my heart and meditate on anticipation, this is the chorus that has stuck with me. Why all the bother? Why all the planning? I mean, think about it. Before the beginning of time (actually, outside of time, since God is not in our dimension- wrap your mind around that one), God knew He would make man, He knew that man would sin, and He knew how He would bring everything back into balance. He      saw us for what we would be and choose to provide for us.
It's the ignominious nature of the whole scheme that's getting me this year. The King of the universe became a human baby. He came down and lived and breathed and had relationships with people. He cried and laughed and got sick sometimes. He went through the whole drama of life- without sinning. My friend Mary tied this into the whole Kinsmen Redeemer concept- only God had the power to redeem, but only a human could do it for humanity. So the Guy who had the means to pay took on the form that He had to be in to pay it. His divine nature was still there- that never went anywhere. But His glory, His form, and His rights- He forfeited all the things that we most cling to and came here. He came to serve us- how crazy is that? The one being in the universe that actually deserves loyalty and service gave that up to serve the people who by all rights ought to have been the servants. I would never do that. The human body, while a good and beautiful thing, is also frail. He took on those frailties and felt them in their full measure on the cross. It's all so counterintuitive and beyond my ability to relate.
All this to say, I am being completely humbled by the costliness of Jesus' pursuit of one soul. I think of my own life- all the twists and turns so far. There were so many points where He pursued me, and not just for salvation, but for relationship. It just seems like an awful lot of effort for little old me. That makes me think of a story I heard about a girl who Amy Carmichael worked with in India. She became a Christian through the school run by missionaries and then left her father's house to travel with Amy. He couldn't legally do anything to her since she was of age, but he wanted to make sure that no else became a Christian. He led a group of men to burn down the school and home of other Christians. The Christians grumbled and said that surely all the problems weren't worth the conversion of a single girl.
The cost/benefit analysis for any relationship doesn't match up for us, more often than not. That person is too frustrating or hurts us too much or is just plain too different than us for a relationship to be worth it. We can't be bothered to invest the time, or risk the pain, that love requires. But the perfect God who created us and everything around us- He can be bothered. He counts the costs and deems them worth it. I am really just staggered by this.
So this Advent, I am brimming with anticipation. I am remembering that once, many, many moons ago, my Savior came to earth, beginning the climax of a long-plotted plan to bring me back into relationship with my Father. He gave up so many of His rights and served me. And as I look at all the lights and general splendor that are meant to inspire awe within me, I will try to focus my awe on the One who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

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