Sunday, December 19, 2010


Humility, the remarkable characteristic of the God who has every reason and right not to be, is embedded in the details of the birth of Christ Jesus. He was born in a stable! Much of what C.S. Lewis communicated resonates with me. He wrote in The Last Battle, "In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world". He also said of the Lord, "God is not proud...He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him." As I consider obscure scripture not often read or considered but just as authoritative as John 3:16 I marvel at the God who would take up residence, not just visit, but take up residence in a burning desert thorn bush. Moses blessed the offspring of Joseph with these words:
"Blessed...with the precious things of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers."
'Dwelt' does not mean to visit temporarily, but is defined in just the opposite way -'to lodge', 'to reside or permanently stay'. You may think that God got to the bush 15 minutes before Moses did that day, but that is not the case. He dwelt there! All of us want, yea even need, the favor of God, but how many of us are willing to receive the 'favor of Him who dwelt in the bush'? That kind of favor helped deliver 2,000,000 Jews from terrible bondage under the control of the most ruthless despot of their generation. But that kind of favor comes in the context of foolishness and humility. A talking bush? A burning talking bush who claims to be the uncreated God? Try explaining that kind of blessing to those who are so tied to the realm of the earth, so tied to their own reason and religious concepts that they would consider such an encounter as coming from 'the dark side'.

Jesus was born in a stable which was likely just a cave, a room carved into the side of a hill. Animals lived there. It was dirty. The bible records it this way,
"And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).
You could translate this verse another way,
"And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in rags and used a feed trough for his bed, because there was no room for them anywhere else".
The Christmas story has been so gilded with religious sentiment that sometimes it is difficult to grasp the profundity of what happened. The One who created everything became a man and was born in a dirty place and first slept in a trough from which animals fed. The most stable person in the universe was born in a stable...this play on words has within it a wonderful truth. True stability in life comes from true humility. But many shy away from the kind of foolishness that can deposit that kind of true humility. That is another one of God's paradoxes. He uses foolish even unstable situations to create stability within us and to impart His glory to us. God is serious about revealing His glory and imparting His glory, but how many of us will embrace the odd way in which God does so?

God still resides in a burning bush. That means that even until this day our God reveals Himself in unusual ways, ways easy to disregard, ways that offend our religious sensibilities, ways that we would never choose. Why? God is humble. Men are proud. He does it to help us change. We need to.

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