During the month of December I have the honor of sharing a beautiful piece of writing with you. A dear friend in ministry, Audrey McCormick, wrote this story a few years ago. She read part of it at a church service recently and I knew I had to share it with you. I thought I would share it to celebrate this Advent season – as we prepare to remember the birth of Jesus this Christmas time.
However much I love Christmas, with all the decorations, baking, Christmas parties, songs, dressing up and delicious food, Christmas to me is about so much more. It is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. For many of you this is just a ‘nice story’ that gets mixed in with all the other celebrations. For me and Captain America it is a special birthday, one like no other. It is a ‘story’ full of miracles, of prophecies fulfilled, one that demands the response of a relationship with a real man, who lived and walked upon this earth in order that we could live our life to the fullest and fulfill our destiny. It is a story of truth.
So read on, think on these words, let them wash over you and fill your soul
And while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you, is born this day, in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger… And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying… And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them (Luke 2:6-12, 16-18).
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2:19).
Love and Intimacy have been my hiding place, and in this silence I have been able to feel Him grow. His Love is like an ever changing ocean, and now I feel it stirring as it becomes restless to break out under the Power that overshadows me. I have come to understand that our secrets will spill from me before I can determine which are His and which are mine. This thought is disconcerting. In an effort to preserve myself, I resist Him. I want it to be clean, controlled and acceptable. I want Him to land within the perimeters of my highest expectations. But in reckless power He is crashing to break down my pride. He has chosen the time, and regardless of my expectations, He will be displayed in the beautiful mess that emerges as the breath of heaven washes over me.
As I experience the process of giving the gift of His life, I am learning that my expectations for perfection are futile in the shadow of His Excellence. I am unable to participate, restfully, in the movement of His Life unless I am willing to forsake the way I see things, so that I can gain His perspective. Excellence comes when I can see things through the eyes of God. It is so unnatural to view life with this perspective, but when I look at the birth of Jesus, I can see hidden, under what appeared to be mess and failure, the breathing excellence of God.
Mary must have felt the wild emotions of God’s power crashing over her on the night that He called forth His Creation – Jesus. She was a vessel being crushed and broken so that every last drop of His glory could be removed. Regardless of the time or the place, she was submitted to the move of God. She must have felt like she was falling short of every expectation as she prepared to deliver the Son of the Highest into the lowest of places. She and Joseph were in a position of poverty, and they must have felt like they were defiling the Gift that God had entrusted them. The waves of power were crashing as heaven and earth were colliding, and Mary was in a place of submission as the story of Redemption broke open. She must have felt such vulnerability in her circumstance as she came to realize that the Treasure of her life was now outside of herself and resting in a manger.
When that piece of glory was delivered into the world, did she long to put it back inside? It was her Heart, enlarged, beautified and exposed. Her Secret was out in the open before she could prepare it. I can almost hear her whispering prayers of repentance as she swaddled Him tightly with torn pieces of cloth and placed Him in a feeding trough. Confusion must have filled her heart as she looked upon this beautiful mess. She probably felt like she had done it all wrong. The hidden hopes and dreams for how she would deliver a King must have dissolved rapidly in the chaos of the night as they searched for shelter and could only find rest in a barn.
When the Almighty moves to withdraw the Gifts of Him that have been growing in me, I feel like I am dying. With fingers gripped I try to stall the work of His hands. I want all of His movements to meet with my measures of Perfection. He deserves excellence, but when I look into myself, I see that I am still a mess. I begin to wonder about how His perfect beauty will spill from me and not be polluted. Fear begins to swirl through my mind to create a whirlwind of confusion. The secrets that burn in my soul will no longer be contained and they kick as the Breath of Heaven blows over me to bring them out. Shouts of pain emerge as my ego fights to remain upon the hidden thrones in my mind. Faithfully the arm of God pushes with authority through my walls of protection to draw out the gift that has been hiding within me. And after fatigue wrestles my soul to the floor I find, in my lap, His glory mixed with my tears – a beautiful mess. My hopes for Perfection dissolve quickly under the shadows of His Excellence.
The excellence of God is beyond what my eyes can see because it is wrapped in rags and lying in a manger. Resting far below my expectations, His Excellence is the thing that I stumble over as I run with blinding speed toward the trophy that I created with my own hands. The Excellence of God was for Jesus to come into the earth as a Child of Poverty, and it was Excellence for Him to be protected and hidden due to a lack of beauty so that none would desire Him.
The Excellence of God must have been hidden for Mary as she grappled with the uncertainty of the night. She probably didn’t realize that as the comforts of the physical necessities were being removed, the foundations for the Heavenly story were being established. Blinded by fear and confusion, she may not have noticed that a star had been deliberately placed above them to announce His arrival. A collision of heaven and earth occurred as God breathed over her for the release of His Son. The crashing outpour of His Words upon her life caused everything in her realm to be laid low so that all things within His could be made high. In the first stages of His Gift of Jesus unraveling, she probably remained partially blind under the shadows of His mystery.
She probably didn’t realize that the arrival of Jesus was reverberating through the atmospheres of earth, and that His first breaths were sweeping through the sands of time to remain for eternity.
And as she sat with Him, in the first moments of His life, she probably didn’t know that hosts of angels were testifying to shepherds in distant fields of the gift for all who would believe – a Savior. She probably didn’t realize that fear was striking the heart of Herod as he felt his throne loosening from underneath him. Nor did she know that the wisest of men were following hidden trails with hopes to lay eyes upon the Infant King. She was in the center of God’s crashing power, and in this place human ideals and hopes are brought low, to a point of confusion, so that when all is laid bare, only words of His Excellence can be spoken.