“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53:2.
We enter a time of year where we are all prone to getting overwhelmed. We want to make others happy. We want to be made happy. We want to give and get the perfect gift. Meals often must be cooked just so. Certain foods must be made because they are expected. We stress others and ourselves.
As we head into the rush of the Christmas season, just meditate for a moment on just these six words: the gift has already been given. We cannot give or receive a more perfect gift. It was not, in the beginning, a gift of great majesty or beauty. It was a child born in a manger because there was no room in any home for his pregnant mother. Placed in a feeding trough in God alone now knows what messy condition, he was not much to look at. He did not glow as paintings suggest.
“The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes,” sings Away in the Manger, but it is a bit of a heresy. Little Lord Jesus was fully and completely a human baby. Babies wake up and cry. We cannot separate the divine from the human after incarnation. The God of all creation who brings bread from heaven, water from rocks, and raised us all up from the dust of the earth was lying in a feed trough in an unkempt state having just been pushed out of His mother.
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C.S. Lewis called this the true myth. Mythology explains to us something about reality in a fantastical way. Myth tried to make sense of man and earth. Christ’s story is, Lewis wrote, “simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.”
But you, at this moment, are not interested in that child whether you accept the truth of His virgin birth, His birth at all, or none of it. You are interested in the shopping list, the smiling faces, the expected joy of people, places, and things. That joy is tempered by the worries of making ends meet, the stress of all holiday things, and what and who you might forget.
Through it all, the what and who that you might forget is actually there in the manger. You forget the reason we go through this. So commercialized now, we cannot see the babe because the big inflatable lawn ornament is in the way.
But stop. Breathe in. Remember that the gift has already been given. You can give no better what God himself has given us all. We wait for His return. We celebrate His birth. But I must add one more thing.
There are those who cannot escape the worry and stress. There are those this month who will, unbeknownst to you, suffer loneliness and depression. They will say nothing of it. You must seek them out just as that child in that manger seeks you out. Reflect a bit of His glory in the lives of others this season. Pay more attention to the people instead of the things because you cannot top the present already given to all of us.
Erick Erickson is host of Atlanta’s Evening News on WSB Radio.