As I think about learning and growing in the area of devotion…well…I wonder, how do I begin to do that?
The wise men came bearing gifts…
Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.
I don’t have fine jewels or expensive perfume at my disposal, but I think I can come to him just the same. I can come bearing gifts like my talents or the material blessings he’s given physically or financially. But is that enough? What is actually costly to me?
And then I think about the longings of my heart.
Trusting him with unmet desires. Hoping in Him that He will finish the good work in me that sometimes seems so hard to see. Trusting that he truly is both the author and perfecter of my faith. It’s this stuff, the stuff more than money and finery, that I secretly want to keep all to myself. This is the stuff I must bring to him. My hopes for marriage and family. The vision and expectations for how my life should have and will continue to play out. What kind of home I wish I could live in. Who I think my friends and community ought to be and look like and feel like right now. My desire that the work I do is meaningful and will have lasting purpose. What I thought being an adult meant and should feel like…
On their own, they are pretty crummy gifts. One creature’s vision of a life satisfied. No doubt paling in comparison to the one her creator has for her. But all these things amount to my heart. Disordered and needing a divine shake-up.
This is what I will bring. The whole thing….piece by piece if I have to…
to the manger.
To the cross.
To the empty tomb.
If we want to be a part of these events, Advent and Christmas, we cannot just sit there like a theatre audience and enjoy all the lovely pictures. Instead, we ourselves will be caught up in this action, this reversal of all things; we must become actors on this stage. For this is a play in which each spectator has a part of play, and we cannot hold back. What will our role be? Worshipful shepherds bending the knee, or kinds bringing gifts? What is being enacted when Mary becomes the mother of God, when God enters the world in a lowly manger?
We cannot come to this manger in the same way that we would approach the cradle of any other child. Something will happen to each of us who decides to come to Christ’s manger. Each of us will have been judged or redeemed before we go away. Each of us will either break down, or come to know that God’s mercy is turned toward us…
What does it mean to say such things about the Christ child?… It is God, the Lord and Creator of all things, who becomes so small here, comes to us in a little corner of the world, unremarkable and hidden away, who wants to meet us and be among us as a helpless, defenseless child. — DIETRICH BONHOEFFER