Thursday, December 20, 2012

Searching and Seeing

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. I’m searching for you. It’s not that you’re nowhere to be found, you’re just harder to find than usual. When I hear from you, it’s like getting a letter, or a text, or (if I’m lucky) a phone call, but it’s not like you’re right next to me like it used to be. I don’t want to believe that’s part of growing up. I don’t want to believe that growing up means growing distant. So I’m trying to find you. I’ve been looking in books, old journals, talks with friends, movies, music…and I can’t seem to find you anywhere.
                For awhile it seemed to be getting better. The Christmas season began. With every twinkling light and with every whiff of peppermint, my soul was subtly reminded of you. I was reminded of your joy. I was reminded that those who searched for you did find you. I was reminded of the events that set the stage for your arrival.
                To be honest, I was a little jealous at first. Mary beheld Gabriel. Joseph had a clear dream. Elizabeth birthed a miracle. The innkeeper observed a desperate need. The wise men witnessed a celestial sign. The Shepherds were covered with angel’s light. You were so evident. You made yourself so clear. It’s not always that easy to find you and I feel like this story almost…leads me on.
                Things happen and it’s really hard to see you. It was hard to see you when friendships got weird. It became even harder to see when cancer returned. Then it became more difficult with the anxiety of finals. And then a man opened fire on children and I can’t seem to see you anywhere. I’ve learned to have faith that you’re there without seeing that you’re there and cling to that for all its worth…but I’m afraid I may lose my grip soon. And to be honest, I get really confused why you’re so silent when your entry into the world was anything but silent.
                But then again…it wasn't that simple, was it? One dream and one angel visit probably didn’t continually bring Mary and Joseph comfort when they were looked down upon by society. Elizabeth’s high-priest husband was mute for nine months because he argued with an angel. The innkeeper had to worry about the potential death of a newborn and mother. The wise men had to depend on the ever-changing sky. The Shepherds were probably scoffed at and quickly silenced. Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt for years. Herod ordered a massacre. It’s not always that easy to find you.
                But just because it isn’t easy to find you doesn’t mean that you are not there. In fact, it could mean that you are very, very present. 

Christ By Highest Heaven Adored

            Gabriel looked around the smelly, moist, noisy cave. He chuckled and shook his head. As he observed the surroundings he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see fellow angel Andrew standing there, smiling.
            “Not quite what they expected, is it?” Andrew laughed.
            “Certainly not. Not even what I would have expected for the King!”
            “What do you expect, as humble as He is?”
            “I know…I know.”
            “This does not change His kingship…it actually displays the heart of His kingship.”
Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord.
            The cry of the baby king echoed through the cave. Gabriel and Andrew turned quickly, grabbing the sheath of their sword. Gabriel felt a sigh of relief escape him as he saw that the fleshly, tiny, weak King Jesus was just fussing after being positioned differently in his mother’s arms. Now it was Andrew who was shaking his head.
            “He’s a baby. I still have a hard time grasping that He’s a baby. And then, as if Jesus being born to anybody was not strange already, He’s born to a virgin.
            Gabriel let out a loud laugh.
            “Yes, it is quite the mystery.”
            “By the way, how did she take the news?”
            “It went a lot better than telling Zecheriah about John, I’ll tell you that much. See…she knew who sent me, and she respects Him and His word. She was puzzled of course, but she was willing to accept the mystery and embrace the incompresenbility of what was being said to her. “
Late in time, behold Him come. Offspring of the virgin’s womb.
            Andrew and Gabriel shared a chuckle. Gabriel slowly cocked his head as he looked at baby Jesus. Baby Jesus. Baby. He was loud, messy after just being born, wrapped in clothes meant to be burial cloths, dependent, weak, and tired. As Gabriel gazed at the baby, he could not help but picture the Jesus He knew. High, exalted, glorious, magnificent, beautiful and perfect. Who Gabriel was looking at was not the Jesus Gabriel was used to seeing at all. And yet, here He was. God, in the flesh. Not only in the flesh, but an infant.
Veiled in flesh, the God-head see.
            “Oh! Here they come!” Andrew whispered.
            “Good! I’m glad they got here…they were terrified.”
            “And despite their fear…they still came.”
            A dirty, smelly shepherd approach the mouth of the cave. Mary saw him and drew Jesus in closer to her. With a look of newfound father instinct, Joseph stood up and confronted the shepherd.
            “You need to leave.”
            “No! Please, let us explain!”
            Joseph looked behind the first shepherd and saw a group of at least ten more. Joseph sighed in frustration,
            “Please. My wife just gave birth to my son-“
            “Did you dress him in swaddling cloths?”
            Dumbfounded, Joseph moved his head back slightly
            “Yes…yes, those were the only clothes we had. I suppose we should have been more prepared…but…wait… how did you…?”
            Gabriel and Andrew smiled at each other.
            With a grin, the shepherd replied,
            “Like I said, let us explain. You see, we were watching our sheep when…”
            Gabriel and Andrew laughed loud and long as the shepherds attempted to explain what they had seen. Not because of the way the shepherds retold the story, but because of the joy of the magnificent story that they were seeing unfold.
            “Please…let us see this thing that has happened, that the Lord has told us about!”
            With mouth agape and eyes wide, Joseph turned his head to look at his wife. She had heard the whole thing. She returned his look with a look of equal amazement, and nodded. Joseph turned back to the shepherds, silently nodded and guided the shepherds into the cave. Mary placed Jesus in the manger so everyone could see Him.
            The shepherds crowded around the newborn King. A silent, reverent hush came over them. Reverent…of a child. Tears welled up in the eyes of some of the older shepherds. One older shepherd voiced,
            “We’ve been waiting…for so long!”
Hail the incarnate deity!
Joseph affectionately touched Mary’s shoulder and she smiled up at him.
            Gabriel now turned his attention from the King to the ones that He had chosen to live among. Jesus had lived with glorious celestial beings up to this point…and now because of His love for THESE, creatures that had been made in His image…He had come down as one of them. He who had created them now had to be cared for by them. Those who would have not existed without Him dreaming them in His heart, He was dependent upon. He loved them so much. He saw so much potential in them. He had such great and lofty plans for them. He cared about them so much, that He wanted to be able to relate to them. He wanted to live with them.
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.
            Gabriel’s vision blurred. He closed his eyes and tears trickled down his cheeks. He smiled and whispered,
            “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…Glory to my King…to the newborn King. Glory to the newborn King!”
Hark! The herald angel sings, Glory to the newborn King!
            After what seemed like hours, Gabriel was able to open His eyes, despite the glorious light. He was not in the cave in Bethlehem anymore. He was now facing another kind of cave. In a garden. A cave that moments earlier had served as a grave. It was no longer an effective grave…for the stone had been rolled away and its inhabitant stood before the grave, alive, glorious and well.
Hail the heav’n born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
            Gabriel stood completely still. Jesus was alive. First He had been born. Then He had grown. Then He had died. Now He lived again. And He was standing right in front of Gabriel, in all of His resurrection glory. The light that shone from Him was far more radiant than the light than all the angels had shown when they appeared to the shepherds.
Light and life to all He brings,
            Jesus smiled at Gabriel. He reached down to His belt and unlatched a set of keys. Gabriel’s mouth dropped open. Jesus held them up. The keys of Death and Hades. With a grin of triumph and confidence, He jingled them.
Risen with healing in His wings!
            The memories of the past 33 years in addition to the majesty of the present moment was overwhelming to Gabriel. For the last 33 years there had been nothing to attract people to Him…now He was the most beautiful, glorious being on the planet.
Mild He lays His glory by!
            Jesus approached Gabriel. As tears had come at the birth of Jesus, so they came again to Gabriel as the resurrected Christ approached Him. Jesus placed His hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. His eyes twinkled as He smiled. He began to chuckle. Then He broke into a loud laugh. He threw His arms around Gabriel and embraced Him. The tears streamed down Gabriel’s face. His King was not dead anymore. Jesus let go of Gabriel and held him at arms length. He smiled at Gabriel, and patted His shoulders. Jesus leaned forward with a look of mischief on His face.
            “The women will be here soon…I want to surprise them!”
            Gabriel took a moment to look at Him. Even after all the time spent with Him, Gabriel knew He would never totally understand Him.
“I don’t think you have to plan that out.”
            Jesus let out a single, loud glorious laugh and turned to leave. He had come to give people hope. He had died and they had been filled with despair. Now He was alive, and it was time to start letting them know that death did not have to be an option anymore. It was the reason He had come to begin with.
Born that man no more may die! Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth!
            Gabriel watched his master walk into the garden. He took a deep breath, contemplating what was to come and the amazement of the event that had just occurred and would last into eternity. He shook His head
            “To Him be all glory and honor…to the Firstborn from the Dead.”
Hark! The herald angel sings! Glory to the newborn King!