I’m super curious about something. How much time would you say that spend contemplating the mystery, the wonder, of Jesus? For instance…
• Do you find yourself contemplating the mystery of God’s very existence? A God who stands outside time, space, and matter?
• Do you contemplate that you were specially created not just “by” this God, but “for” this God? That you are not ever alone. That God sees you, knows you, loves you. That God wants to be seen, known, and loved by you. That God has endowed you with every imaginable quality—divine like qualities—that you might have a real relationship!
Lara and I have three Schnauzers—isn’t it amazing how much joy some little creatures can bring into your life? How many dog people do we have here? How many cat people? Any bird people? fish people? Cockroach people? Too far? But let me ask. How “personal” of a relationship can you really have with an animal? Now we talk to our Schnauzers. They can certainly recognize keywords. They can perceive our emotions. They pick up on our habits and behaviors. They learn how to manipulate us. Like, our dogs expect me to hand them a dog treat every single time I get up in the morning, or every time walk by the treat jar. They raise a terrific fuss, barking and carrying on, demanding I toss them a biscuit. Now how did they ever get conditioned to expect such a thing?
We love to ascribe human attributes—like human emotions—to our pets. But how deeply can they really know us, or we know them? They’re cute. They’re adorable. We’d like to imagine they “love” us. But are we anything more than a treat dispenser, a warm body for them to lay on? If you are a cat owner, you are practically dead to that cat. They don’t try to lead you on. They don’t need you. A dog will at least lie to you, and wag its tail, and give you a wet sloppy kiss. But a cat will hiss at you even while you feed him. When I was younger my minister, would hire me to feed his two Siamese cats while he was on vacation. A friend had a pair as well. Honestly, the most terrifying five minutes of my life was entering his home to feed his cats! They weren’t just antisocial, they were psychopathic, blood thirsty killer ninjas. “Do not make direct eye contact with them” the minister warned me.
There is a limit to how personally fulfilling of a relationship we can have with animals. They are of animal likeness, yet we are of human likeness. Yet the Bible says we were created in God’s image and likeness. God didn’t create us to be his pets—but with a real capacity to see him, know him, love him, understand him. He’s given us lingual capacities to know and perceive, rationality, spirituality…
• Do you ever contemplate the history of God? Here is this Bible that claims to be the single oldest recording of history. What other book describes the creation of all the heaven and earth, the creation of man, in such vivid prose? What other book—scientific or philosophic—unravels the mystery of life so completely as does Scripture? When you turn to Science and Philosophy you end up with more and more questions, doubts, gaps. But when you open Scripture God unravels the mystery of life, of our existence, of our destiny to us!
• Do you ever contemplate the promises of Scripture? The Bible chronicles how our crisis is fundamentally moral and spiritual. Instead of living into our spiritual nature, knowing and loving God. . . we’ve lived into our fleshly and material nature becoming more like animals than God… or worse trying to be gods ourselves.
How does the Bible describe the human dilemma? We’re estranged from our loving God and Father, the one for whom we were created to know and love. We’re estranged within ourselves—without hope, without God. We’re estranged from the natural order itself—afflicted by seemingly random chaos, calamity, pain, and suffering. And we’re estranged from one another…our self-centeredness and cruelty toward one another compounding our pain. But is there a solution?
Do you know what Christmas sometimes feels like? Christmas feels like this season where we brainwash each other to be nice and generous to each other—only for us to return to our old ways once the decorations are put away. But what if God really promised salvation in Christ. What if Christ IS HIMSELF the solution?
What if, in Christ, God reconciles all men unto himself? What if, in Christ, not only does God “fill” us with his Holy Spirit but tangibly and substantively heals us deep within the darkest recesses of our heart, mind, body, and soul? What if, in Christ, God is bringing true and everlasting peace. Reconciling all men not just to himself but to one another? What if, in Christ, God is transforming us to truly love one another, and be loved? This is after all the essence of Christ’s Church—to be a Christ-shaped people who look not to the interests of self but others as our overall manner of life! And what if, in Christ, God is redeeming creation itself? (This now abnormal creation that… abnormal not because of God, but because of man… not because of some void in God’s greatness and goodness but because of our spiritual and moral sin). What if, in Christ, this creation that been groaning along with all humanity for redemption… is finally and fully being delivered from the curse of sin and death?
What if, in Christ, God is unraveling the mystery of life and life everlasting?
What if, in Christ, the Plan of God reaches its fruition? Listen to God’s own testimony about what he’s been doing in Christ. Ephesians 1:2-14, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him [he endowed us with his own likeness and image!]. 5 He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ 10 as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.
11 In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in Christ might bring praise to his glory.
13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.”
The true meaning of Christmas—the plan of God in Christ—isn’t something you want to go and miss. It isn’t the sort of thing you want to keep concealed in your heart. It’s the kind of thing you want to unravel, unwrap, and freely share. I’ll be honest with you. These days I can’t NOT contemplate the wonder of Christ. I try to think about everything else, but Christ keeps arresting my deepest affections!
• I’ll invite you to do one for yourself even better. Do you spend much time contemplating that not only is Jesus actually God—but that for a time in the person of Jesus, God appearing in human form—living among us, dwelling, tabernacling, camping out, walking among us. That Jesus is the fullness of God—God being seen, heard, tasted, touched, known, found, unveiled?
In John 14:1 Jesus tells his disciples, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” And not only does Jesus tell them he is returning to the Father, but that he is returning to make “space” for them forever for eternity in the presence of God. I am going to the Father to prepare a place for you to dwell with God forever! That’s quite an extraordinary claim.
It’s Thomas who asks the Lord to clarify himself, “Lord we don’t understand where you are going! How can we know the way?” In John 14:6-7 Jesus says, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Not to be upstaged by the ignorance of Thomas, Philip pipes up. Thus we have John 14:8: “Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.” In John 14:9-11 Jesus minces not a single syllable, “Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.”
I regularly meet people who do not believe Jesus could possibly be God, and that Jesus most certainly could not be “God in human form.” I don’t think people dismiss Christ after deep, personal contemplation. I think most people dismiss Christ lazily. If you don’t believe in Christ… tell me honestly… have you ever cracked open the Bible to behold the Divine Mystery, the Divine Wonder, the Divine Spectacle who is Christ Jesus our Lord? Not only is Jesus our very great and good God in human form, but every word Jesus spoke… every action he took… the works he completed are COMPLETELY CONGRUENT with his Divine Identity.
In 1 John 1:1-4 the Apostle John writes, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” I’m not asking you to take some blind leap of faith. I’m asking, “Have you ever really opened not just your eyes but also your heart, to contemplate the mystery of God disclosed in Christ?” Jesus is not just the plan of God, not just the promise of salvation, but very presence of God visiting us.