Christmas

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Happy holidays, everyone! Here’s a blog thought to go with your festive Christmas season.

I was listening to Amy Grant sing the song, “Grown up Christmas List” earlier. Don’t ask. I mean, I like Amy Grant. She brings back some great memories and she’s still rocking after all these years. But there’s a line in that particular cover song (by Linda Thompson Jenner, by the way) that kind of struck me. I’d never really listened to it before:

“What is this illusion called the innocence of youth? Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth.”

In this cynical, selfish age, the idea of youthful innocence isn’t cherished much. Oh, a lot of us pay a lot of lip service to the idea. But often our practiced lives show something different. The fact is, the small, humble, innocent things are the most significant. And while we might know it’s true in our heads, in our hearts, we don’t really feel it. It’s just such a different reality we live with.

That’s why I love Christmas. You get to be an optimistic little kid for a while and not have people laugh at you for being so stupid. (Okay, they’re probably still laughing, but they’re just jealous, right?) My generation of 20- and 30-somethings value cynicism and sarcasm and snide, intelligent satire. Some of us are completely messed up by the stuff and now can’t even listen to regular people unless they’re making fun of something or being ironic. It’s seriously insane. After a certain point with that stuff, I can feel a part of me dying inside from it.

But Christmas is the absence of snotty pretenses like that. It’s like getting to one of the stuffed shirts in the board room and pulling his pants down. Okay. Maybe it’s not quite that irreverent. But you know…it’s like going up and tickling him. Christmas is permission to be straight-up sentimental. To be blind to the usual conditions and complexities of relationships and viewpoints. You get to be idealistic and fanciful. And I think sometimes we feel we need to be given permission–sometimes we can get so encumbered, inhibited, and unable to express our sincere, pure hopes and dreams in the everyday worlds in which we live. That’s the way it is for me, at least. I’ll bet you aren’t unfamiliar with it either.

Don’t get me wrong. Reverence has its place. I should probably qualify last night’s blog a bit to say that was certainly stretching the limits in one direction. I definitely need to balance some of my extreme comments from time to time. But it just seems to me we tend to think of God’s holiness as something unattainable and far off, like it’s such a grandiose thing, when really, it’s humble and the furthest thing from ostentatious. We can do damage when we hold too high a view of God. He LOVES messy people, dirty people, people who don’t hold such a high view of Him, as though He’s removed and uninvolved off in Gloryland. Praise and deference can be just as, if not more meaningful, when you realize God is a humble God, infused in the fabric of tatted rags and mangy stray puppies.

So don’t let the season slip by without giving yourself permission to feel that all-over sensation of unconditional love at some point. And realize that the God who created the infinite and infintessimal considers you in your filthy humanity, worthy of His ineffable company and regard.

Spend some time there.

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6 thoughts on “Christmas”

  1. On this one, Mick, I don’t quite know where to begin.
    First, the Amy Grant song. Innocence is an illusion because even your little sweet Ellie is a sinner. No child is innocent in the spiritual sense.
    You made some very nice comments about enjoying Christmas as a child does, and I’m glad for that, though at my heart I also feel sorry for the cynicism you live with. I think it must make all of life a little harder.
    You started my blood boiling, however, when you said: “We can do damage when we hold too high a view of God.” It is impossible for us to hold too high a view of God. God is higher than I can imagine. Greater. More encompassing. Beyond my understanding. Limitless. And yet he loves me. How can I ever hold Him high enough?
    But the statement that has me hollering at my screen is “realize that the God who created the infinite and infinitessimal considers you in your filthy humanity, worthy of his ineffable company and regard.” NO HE DOESN’T. No, Mick, he doesn’t. It is precisely because we are UN-worthy that Christ came. Of all things, Christmas should remind us of our unworthiness, not our worthiness. Christ humbled himself and came and died all because I am unworthy to be in God’s presence, and He only regards me as a guilty sinner. Which doesn’t mean He loves me less. But certainly not because I am worthy of that love. This is not a small thing. I suspect the self-esteem training of your generation has seeped into your theology. It needs to be eradicated, excised unmercifully. This can not be tolerated or excused as a slip of the tongue. God’s name is at stake; His work is at issue. This is too serious to tolerate. No where in Scripture will you learn that we are worthy of anything God gives. Apart from Christ. Thank God for Christmas, yes. More precisely, for Christ who covers our unworthiness with His worthiness and enters us into the presence of the Father.
    Heh heh–end of tirade.

  2. I don’t think Mick needs me to defend him but since I jumped on him week ago I’d like to stand up for him this time.
    It depends on your audience whether you say people have too high or too low a view of God. I went to a church once where many of the people had too a low a view of God. God was little more than a Santa Clause and his sole purpose was to bless them with money/health/happy marriages or whatever else they desired. (Even if the happy marriage came as a result of divorcing one spouse so they could marry a better one.) These people were constantly thanking Jesus for everything and giving him the glory but they had a very poor view of God. They didn’t hold him as holy. I used to tell them every chance I got that we needed a higher view of God.
    But I also have many friends who are Eastern Orthodox and I believe they have too high a view of God. My neighbor told me that she could not believe that Evangelicals were so bold as to teach their children to sing, “Jesus Loves Me.” How dare we so flippantly take his name upon our lips? She strove to say the Jesus Prayer nonstop (Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.—They repeat this all day long to obey the command to pray without ceasing.) She would not read the Bible and try to understand it, instead she read Orthodox books because “the Bible is a big book and hard to understand.” She was appalled at my boldness to handle scripture and to try to use it as a guide for daily living and to discuss it with others as if I could understand it. She preferred to pray to Mary than Jesus because Mary was human and approachable. Mary would plead her cause with Jesus and since Jesus loved his mother he would spare my young friend for his mother’s sake. And this friend is not an anomaly. She is only doing what she’s been taught to do.
    I suspect most of the readers on this blog would agree that this is a warped view and it seeks to lift God up too high.
    But we can’t just say that’s the Orthodox and we Evangelicals don’t err this way. If we are ever afraid that God doesn’t love us because of our sin then we have too high a view of God. If we ever think that we have to do something to earn God’s favor then we have too high a view of God.
    I have a friend, a believer in “saved by grace alone, through faith alone” who says that to go boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) means that we crawl before God because we are such “pukes” and he is so holy. She is in rebellion against the Word, then. She chooses to redefine the word “boldly.” God tells us to come boldly and obtain mercy and we sin against the blood of Christ when we stammer and shake as if we don’t believe the blood is powerful enough to save us. He forgives us and will not trample us, tender reeds though we be, but it is weak faith, nonetheless, and not piety that says that we must crawl into God’s presence. The word tells us we will stand for he is able to make us stand. He doesn’t want us to crawl. He wants us to lift up our heads for our redemption draweth nigh.
    God loves us. God loves us. God loves us. He proved that love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God does count sinful men as “worthy of his ineffable company and regard.” We have no inherent worth (unless you count being made in the image of God) but because God loved us, we became worthy. Because God loved us enough to sacrifice his own dearly loved son, our worth rocketed to the heavens. We are worth whatever God says we’re worth and God has said that we sinners are worth the death of the Son. There is no greater worth imaginable.
    God came down and as Mick so beautifully put it, he is “infused in the fabric of tattered rags and mangy stray puppies.” God does not stand at arm’s length. He is as close to me as the breath in my lungs. And it is when we grasp this love of God—that he would come be with me—that we are filled with wonder at his mercy. When we see his perfect love we see our own sinful pride and neglect and ugliness. We are bowed down under such love and then we are lifted up by it and out we go to shed that love abroad.
    I think that Mick is asking us, in this season, to celebrate the fact that God came down. He sympathizes with his people. He is not high and lofty, he is lowly and lying in a manger. This is our God. The God who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but humbled himself and took upon himself the form of a slave and made himself obedient even unto death. This is an approachable God.
    And I love to be reminded of that.

  3. Becky, I understand where you’re coming from. Believe me, I’ve seen some of the problems you’re concerned about in my limited world too. And I went a little too extreme once again in my attempt to make the point that God comes to us in his unfathomable love, being our example of humility in order to win our affection.
    My main point is that among the other problems we’re currently facing in the CBA, one of them might stem from the fact that many in today’s Christian churches simply don’t have this understanding: that the God of the universe is humble.
    Maybe I’ll write some more on this a little later on. Thanks for your commitment to the cause. I apologize for going too extreme yet again.

  4. Mick,
    I think relevantgirl said it best. As I understand her point: when we grasp that God is high and holy, His sacrifice to become human is so much greater. (We so often think the sacrifice was Him being born in a lowly stable when in actuality the sacrifice was Him being born!)
    God’s humility is definitely something to be grateful for, to praise Him for, to celebrate, so in making that point, you have me with you all the way.
    I think Sally did a wonderful job highlighting God’s love. Reminds me of something I recently read in A. W. Tozer (and that I have been rereading Tozer might give you a hint why I went off on maintaining a high view of God): His attributes are not part of His character, each is who He is, and in that sense intertwined. Because God is love, He humbled Himself; and because He is humble, He stoops down to mankind in order to express His love.
    One other point in response to what Sally said: Because other people have a wrong view of mankind and especially of believers, redeemed by Christ, covered by His blood, our view of God should not be less high.
    I had a professor once who had a simple way of looking at history. For centuries after Christ mankind had a high view of God but an unbiblically low view of Man. The pendulum swung and by the time of the Renaissance, mankind had an accurate view of God and of Man (thus my professor’s love for Renaissance writing). Since then, the pendulum has shifted, and the view of God has become low. I have an idea that he was speaking of the view of the church, not society at large. Certainly arguments could be made against his position, but I think the point is clear–it’s possible to have an appropriate view of Man or of God and have an inappropriate view of the other. Because someone holds a wrong view of mankind doesn’t excuse a wrong view of God.

  5. “the God of the universe is humble.”
    His respect for us is such that He forces not even His
    Godness upon us, but grants us freedom …to pursue or not.
    (in memory of Judy Vucetic)

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