OK, going out on a limb here! It’s not like you have not had enough Christmas stories, songs, and the like. And, I do feel a bit uncomfortable talking about this subject again since we just finished the Christmas Season that most often identifies itself by the birth of our Christ. And, after 45 days of being reminded often, sang to with songs about that subject, and a December newsletter about ‘that baby’, I find myself putting in my two cents worth again about Jesus’ birth. On the radio, we’ve rotated over 50 new songs in the past 6 weeks; each of those songs about the celebration of that Bethlehem morning. Near the end of this Christmas season, we started a song rotation that included an ‘old favorite’ of mine. The song ‘Strange Way To Save The World’ pushed me, once again, to think about the story of our Faith. That song’s lyrics still catch my attention since the song first showed up at the station on a 4 Him Christmas disc back in 1993. It points out so well the really strange way God chose to make the most important question and the most necessary answer conform to the simplicity of the heart of God through our Gospel. And after 7 weeks of Christmas rotation, I’m reminded again of our great ability to take the most profound thing in the world and not really think very much about it, boiling it down into a couple responses during December: (1) making it a season of kindness to our friends, relatives and acquaintances, and (2) summarizing it as a season measured in large part by trips to the mall.
Think about it: In His story of redemption, where the smallest, the strangest and sometimes the most illogical are presented to us as Truth. In the seemingly unbelievable, comes the believable for us. Example, this Savior was born in a barren desert land, instead of Babylon and its splendor. He was born to a carpenter rather than to royalty, the son of an unwed Jewish girl instead of a well established family. Born in Bethlehem, rather than what was the cultural center of Joseph’s world, Jerusalem. This miracle baby cried his first cry in a manger rather than a synagogue. This Savior would be King without an army, or title, without wealth, had no book deal to fund his movement, no television program to establish a foothold, no handlers to manage his image. In fact, this Savior did not have a place to lay his head. This Savior seemed to be pushed forward as he voluntarily kept stepping back from anything that promoted himself. He became our Leader of Truth in a world set on believing the Lie.
Amazingly, the Faith we proclaim is not about simple personal improvement, not just about good and evil, but about the possibility, the power to be transformed from one creature into a new creature. It’s a strange way to save the world for sure. This King associated himself with tax-collectors, thieves and a few women of poor reputations. This King gathered his friends from the local fishermen and the like, telling them (and in turn telling us) that they would have to lose themselves in order to find themselves; that we would have to decrease in order to see the presence of God increase in our lives. That if we gave away, we would then find people giving unto us. Going so far as to suggest, that we must die to live; we must be meek to inherit the earth.
With this son, life just kept squeezing him to the top. He amazed the scholars at 12 years old, yet did no miracles until the age of thirty. His early ministry lasted just three years, having been judged, crucified and buried by the age of thirty-three. His followers were scattered and all killed except one: John. In three years, this Savior, this life meant to save the world, was done. Did everything he needed to do about saving the world in 36 months. Now that surely is a strange way to save the world.
Now, we are left some 2000 years later to put our trust, our faith, in a system that seems so illogical and to many a fable, to most a myth. In this story the ‘strangeness’ continues. People that are not perfect have been made perfect by the blood of this Savior. The unsaintly have been declared saints by this Gospel. The unholy are holy because He was holy. In this story, the joy of the Lord is our strength, not good self-esteem. There is hope in our patience, and peace in our steadfastness in times of trouble. It’s a life not fueled by power but by His Spirit. It’s a trust that the more we get out of the way the more of His presence is revealed in our lives. We are free because we have been made a slave unto Christ. It’s a strange way to save the world. We have to discover that we have more life because we do not try and preserve our life. We must learn that the cultural creed of ‘finding ourselves’ only leaves us lonely, frustrated and disappointed. Finding Him leaves us fulfilled; find Him and everything wonderful gets thrown in. We learn that praying for our enemies and loving our neighbors have a profound effect on ourselves. We will be most mature when we come as little children and trust in our Father. All that strangeness causes me to still think and consider the birth of Christ even after our Christmas, probably all the way until at least June!
‘I’m sure he must have been surprised at where this road had taken him, ‘cause never in a million years would he have dreamed of Bethlehem.
And standing at the manger he saw with his own eyes the message from the angel come to life. And Joseph said: Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade? Why Him with all the rulers of the world? Why here inside this stable filled with hay. Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl.
Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say. But this is such a strange way to save the world. (Strange Way To Save The World, 1993)
To think of how it could have been if Jesus had come as He deserved. There would have been no Bethlehem, no lowly shepherds at his birth. But Joseph knew the reason love had to reach so far. And, as he held the Savior in his arms he must have thought…this is such a strange way to save the world.’
(As C. S Lewis noted in his book Mere Christianity: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”)