The Center Point

It often seems that my Advent meditations center around a single idea – often something meaningful to my reflections on the past year. Sometimes they’re painful meditations. Sometimes they are joyous. Sometimes they are revelations. Sometimes they’re old truths.

This year’s meditations have focused the coming of the Christ as the center point of history. From creation to new creation, it all revolves around this one moment, in a little town in Judah, when the Redeemer of the world arrived as a newborn infant. Creation, Fall, Redemption: all wrapped together in skin and laid in a manger.
Jesus: the Lord saves. Emmanuel: God with us.
This has been, for me, a Rabbit Room year. Yes, technically my sister introduced me to the place more than a year ago, but this is the year when I’ve really experienced the community: had my eyes opened to the life being lived in that community and joined it myself. The Rabbit Room had a community Christmas gift exchange this year, and, while I didn’t have the time to get involved myself, I wanted to share my thanks for the gifts the Rabbits have given me.
The artists who lead the community have blessed me beyond measure with the liturgy they’ve worked. Their songs, their stories, their essays, their insights have opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the world God has made and our role in it as Christians.
The people who populate this cyber community have impacted me in ways they may not know. They’ve guided my steps as I’ve started this journey of discovery; they’ve shared their stories, their lives, their sorrows, their risks, their hearts. I have been encouraged. I have been challenged.
Without these groups, I may have considered Christmas differently this year. I may not have seen a Boy’s birth as the center point of all history. Perhaps this was what God intended me to see this year anyway, but He used the members of the Rabbit Room to point and say, “Look.” So here are some glances at the Christmas story as I’ve experienced it this year. May you see the Center Point and never look away.

from N. D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl:

“Plan the event. Arrange the reception. The King of kings is coming. He will shoulder governments. He will be called the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor…

“The Lord of all reality is coming to your hemisphere. And He, the pure Spirit, will take on flesh and need to eat and breathe and move His bowels, and have His diaper changed…

“He will be a carpenter, with splintered and blistered hands and cracking nails. One of His grandmothers was a whore of Jericho. He will enter the womb of a virgin and expand in the normal way. He will exit her womb in the normal way. And then she will suckle Him as the cows do their calves. Because, well, He will be mammal…

“The Lord came to clean the unclean. He brought the taint of Holiness, and it has been growing ever since. He was born in a barn and slept in a food trough. Maybe the livestock all took gentle knees, cognizant and pious, like the back page of a children’s Christmas book. Maybe they smacked on their cuts and continued to lift their tails and muck in the stalls.

“The angels knew what was going on even if no one else did. They grasped the bizarre reality of Shakespeare stepping onto the stage, of God making Himself vulnerable, dependent, and human–making Himself Adam. And so, in a more appropriate spirit, they arranged a concert and put on what was no doubt the greatest choral performance in planetary history.

“Were the kings gathered? Where were the people with the important hats? Where were the ushers, the corporate sponsors?

“The Heavenly Host, the souls and angels of stars, descended into our atmosphere and burst in harmonic joy above a field and some rather startled shepherds.

“But the crowd was bigger than that. The shepherds were a distinct minority. Mostly, the angels were just singing to sheep.

“I’m sure those animals paid attention, and not just because there was a baby in their food bowl.”

from Russ Ramsey’s Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative

“Though no one could have known all of this at the time, Jesus was the priest who became the sacrifice, the king who took on the form of a servant, the prophet who was himself the Word of God. He was Immanuel, God with us–Son of God, Son of Man.

“But the death and resurrection of Jesus only makes sense through the lens of his birth. God’s eternal Son, who was present at creation when God made man in his likeness, humbled himself and took on flesh, born in the likeness of man. The Maker knitted him together in Mary’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully forming each tiny part in the depths of her waters. God saw his unformed body. Every day ordained for him was recorded in his Father’s book of life before a single one had come to pass.

“And now he has come.

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

from Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God: The TRUE Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ

So sing out with joy for the brave little boy
Who was God, but He made Himself nothing
He gave up His pride and He came here to die
Like a man

So rejoice, ye children sing
And remember now His mercy
And sing out with joy
For the brave little boy is our Savior
Son of God,
Son of Man

The Blind Writer

I had a professor once who said, “The writer is the one who points and says, ‘Look.’” I’ve internalized that idea so deeply that I can no longer recall who said it – the words are now mine, and I repeat them from time to time when I’m called upon to say what it is I do – I point. I say, “Look.” I write.
Monday was, as Anne Shirley so appropriately described, “a Jonah day.” It started with misplacing my phone before work and having to leave without it, continued through ordering the wrong drink at the coffee shop, realizing I forgot my lunch, discovering a project at work hadn’t been completed, speaking sharply to a coworker, apologizing to said coworker, learning no contact had been made with a prospect for a book endorsement when I had requested it two weeks earlier…the list goes on. Through it all I was working on the tedious task of implementing proofreading notes on a book manuscript. I left work at the end of the day, having told my roommate I would text her when I was on the way so she could put the rice on, only to realize that was impossible without a phone, and dinner would consequently be twenty minutes later for my hungry belly.
I found myself in the car, weeping, crying out to God and asking Him why I hadn’t realized I’d been cruel to my coworker, kicking myself for how I handled it all, angry that I hadn’t followed up on the missed pieces sooner, wracking my brain to figure how I would finish all the work on the manuscript before the deadline.
Even Anne’s perfect description for my day, when it came to me as I drove, gave me no comfort. Along with it came her other thought on the topic: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” It’s that little word at the end that’s the problem: “yet.” It mocked me: “You’ll just do it all again tomorrow.”
The tears clouded my eyes; the thoughts crowded my mind. I ached at my own sinfulness and I couldn’t see a way out of it. The writer was blind. In such a state, how could she point? How could she look?
And then a new song started on the CD. It began with quiet strings and piano before Andrew Peterson’s voice began to gently prod,
Behold the Lamb of God
Who takes away our sin
Behold the Lamb of God
The life and light of men
Behold the Lamb of God
Who died and rose again
Behold the Lamb of God who comes
To take away our sin
“Behold.” Look.
My mind would wander back to the troubles of my Jonah day and AP would point again with that word, “Behold.”
Over and over again the phrase repeats in the song: “Behold the Lamb of God.” Look at the Son of God, Emmanuel, the hope of man. When the song ended, I went through again and again. “Behold.” Do not look elsewhere. Keep your eyes on the Lamb. Will you sin again tomorrow? Yes, and the Lamb of God will take away that sin, too. “Behold.”
When the writer is blind, who will point and say, “Look”? The voices of the prophets, of the musicians, of the artists, of all those who have beheld the Lamb and come to Him with their broken hearts, fallen far away from Him, only to see them renewed and restored by the One who died and rose again – they will echo together the call of John the Baptist, pointing and saying, “Look.”

To hear Andrew Peterson’s song “Behold the Lamb of God,” click here.