by Bekah Vickers
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. — John 1:9-12
He was in the world. – The Birth Story is God’s Story, present throughout Scripture. In the meditations for this week, we are exploring the mystery of Incarnation as well as the ways that the Nativity Story echoes God’s Bigger Story throughout Scripture, revealing that Christ “was in the world” from the beginning.
Sometimes I wake up and think, “Good grief – who thought I was capable of being in charge of these three children of mine?” The responsibility of caring for babies, toddlers, and growing kids is one of such magnitude that one can only cope by never looking quite straight in the face of that enormous charge – and frequently reminding oneself to rely on nothing less than the power of God for this work.
As Mary touched those tiny fingers and toes of her newborn baby, surely she had the same misgivings. He is so fragile! So helpless! I might just trip and drop him and that would be it! What was God thinking??
And seriously, what was God thinking? Babies must fight for life against the odds – even in our present world of antibiotics and NICUs. Surely the Creator could have chosen a less vulnerable state in which to enter the world?
But God’s MO is vulnerability. Our Bible reveals this over and over again – God is not afraid of risk. The babies of His Story – Isaac, Moses, Samuel, and Jesus Himself – are all born into medically or politically “high risk” situations – and they are just the tip of the iceberg. He fights His wars exclusively from a place of human vulnerability. A crew of desert nomads marching around a fortified city, an army reduced to 300 to fight an enemy that was too large to be counted, and a teenager against a giant.
Jesus does survive His precarious stable birth and refugee childhood, but He will continue to face risk unflinchingly, whether touching the diseased or preaching Truth to angry mobs, all the way to the cross – as will countless disciples who choose to follow Him. The cries of the martyrs in Heaven ring loudly of a multitude who faced great risk and refused to back down.
But even more than the physical risk of God’s involvement with creation is a risk even greater – that of rejection, betrayal, and eternal loss. We see it from the very Beginning: surely God could’ve planted that Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in a remote location, perhaps high on a desolate craggy mountain? But instead, He places the object that holds the potential for His greatest heartbreak, betrayal, and sacrifice right in the center of the garden of Eden. He is not afraid of the risk.
In Jesus’s ministry, how often will He offer himself to those who will personally reject Him? His priests and scribes, the Pharisees, and even His own family. A rich young ruler approaches Him with a seemingly hopeful heart but then just walks away. What must it have felt like to face that kind of rejection? I am the Truth and the Life and the Way, and you see me and turn away. But Jesus is not afraid of the risk of rejection – and what’s more, to all who reject Him, He continues to call. Some, like Peter and James and Saul, will hear the call and change their minds. Others, like the unrepentant ones in Revelation, will choose to run away and hide rather than turn to Him (Rev. 6:15-17).
And still He calls.
Where do you feel vulnerable in your life? Is God calling you to something that seems risky? What would it take for you to let go of the illusion of safety this world offers in order to stand with a God who is not afraid to risk it all? Faith requires us to be vulnerable: to believe the words of a very old book, to pray to an unseen God, to live out an otherworldly citizenship and trust that this life is not the end. God works through vulnerability to teach us that our greatest strength is in Him and nothing else.
According to G.K. Chesterton, “Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator.” Philip Yancey adds that “The need for such courage began with Jesus’ first night on earth and did not end until his last.” The courage of God to work through flawed humans – and then to inhabit humanity Himself in a body that would ache and hurt and get sick and be in need, and ultimately die an awful death – is the same courage that fills us when we choose to believe Him and live out His calling in our lives.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)