..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Handling Jesus Tenderly

It's Advent and I have been thinking about
the vulnerability of the Christmas story. One
phrase, "and they laid Him in a manger"
(Luke 2:7), keeps reverberating. They laid
Him--King of King and Lord of Lords--picked
Him up and laid Him down. Laid Him where
they decided, laid Him in the only place open to
Him, laid Him, as vulnerable as a puppy, in the
place for the animals. I just cannot imagine this.
They, his mom and dad, must have looked at
Him, taken a good long look, and wondered,
"God in heaven, Who is this?"

Yes, God in heaven. Now God on earth. So small,
so fragile, so handled by men. Thank God for the
loving hands that first handled Him. Mary and
Joseph. God chose so wisely. They would be kind
no matter who He was. They would love Him no
matter what. God knows they did not see what
"no matter what" would mean. Oh Mary, how
favored you were of God! How much He trusted you.

Christ came into the world that night in
Bethlehem. He was destined to be handled by many
hands. Few, if any, would ever handle Him so
tenderly as those first hands did. Handled He would
be, touched in so many different ways: in friendship,
in love, for healing, for salvation, for hope, for
strength, for life. Handled also in anger and fury and
in error, in betrayal, in hatred, in jealousy, in
confusion and zealousness.

Until the day came when He chose to lay Himself
down. And make no mistake about it, He layed
Himself down, there was no doing that to Him or
forcing Him into it (John 10:17,18). Then came death.
And He was handled, for one last time, by hands both
hateful and loving.

Mary, the Magdalene, of course is the first to go out
looking for Him after that awful and wonderful day.
"Where have they laid Him?" she asks of Jesus, Himself,
thinking in her tear-blurred, grief-stricken mind that
He was the gardener (John 20:15). She could not bear
to think of how He was handled or that anything worse
should become of Him. Even after death, she went
looking for Him. Perhaps she would handle Him one
last time. So that, if by some chance, He was looking
down from Paradise, that He could rest comforted in
the fact that the last hands that handled him loved
Him as much as the first.

Jesus gave her that one last chance.
Not recognizing Him, He calls her name, so tenderly
we cannot even imagine, and she sees Him, the One
she has loved, standing before her. You can tell from
what Jesus says that it only takes Mary a split-second
to wrap her arms around Him so tightly that He quickly
sees she will not let Him go (John 20:17).
One can't blame her for that. The One does not blame
her either, but compliments her with this: "I am
ascending to My God and your God."
Here is the heart's reward for handling Him
so tenderly.

John thinks about this, as an old man, probably his
keenest memories, "that which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,which we have seen with our
eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have
handled, the Word of Life (I John 1:1). I cannot
imagine what John must have felt like when he
wrote that. I know he was still awestruck and amazed.
I am and I wasn't even there.

So it is the time of Christmas, of our celebrating a God
who entered into the world and was not afraid to be
touched. A God, unlike any other kind of God, in any
other place or time or faith, that came to walk among us.
A God who let us handle Him, poor treatment and all,
so that we might see what the Glory of God really
looks like.

So I ask you, as I ask me, this Christmas, "How will
you handle Him, and how will He be laid in the manger
of your heart?" He is now the Lord of Glory and if we
saw Him, as John did in the Revelation, we, as he,
would fall in fear (Rev 1:11-18). The Sight would be
too great. But God is not about making Himself too
distant to be known and allows Himself to be homed in
the hearts of humble men and women. We will not really
ever understand so much with our minds. We will have
to know it in the mystery of our hearts. How we will
be handled, and how it will end for us, is determined by
how we will handle Him.

For a day comes, and now is, when He will
handle us, and we will be the vulnerable
ones. Perhaps that is why He said, "Do unto others
as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12).
The Christmas story should comfort and soften and
challenge our hearts. If you have ever thought
that God reigns distantly and coldly in heaven, think
again. He reigns, no doubt about that, this story
is about why we adore His reign in us.

It is the story that determines our destinies. Prepare
a soft place for Him. However humble the dwelling,
He will come if invited. Handle Him tenderly.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Thank you for posting. Praise God for giving you such a beautiful insight.