A Surprising Christmas Text

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>Good Christian friends rejoice with heart and soul and voice,
Give ye heed to what we say: “News, news, Jesus Christ is born today.
Ox and ass before him bow; and he is in the manger now.
Christ is born today, Christ is born today. – Heinrich Suso

On December 25th we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, the celebration of our Savior’s birth. It is a day filled with wonder, not only for children, but for all who marvel at God’s magnificent and stunning arrival on planet earth as a flesh and blood human being. It is a miracle that inspired John to pen this poetic account of God’s arrival: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth – the true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:14, 9 )

I began this year’s Christmas morning rising before everyone else in the house and spending some time in the book of Job, my Christmas reading assignment for my Disciple Bible Study class. I had not expected this passage to push me back into the great Christmas texts of Christ’s birth, but that is where Job took me. Job – who had a litany of sufferings unparalleled in Scripture. Who else could claim to have lost so much so quickly? In one day he lost servants and livestock in a Sabean raid; lost servants and sheep in freakish fire from heaven; lost camels and servants in a three column raid by the Chaldeans; lost all 10 of his children in a wind storm that literally brought the house. Day two would bring him more heartache, pain and a body covered in sores.

When Job finally does speak, he had a lot to say. He gave voice to his suffering and trials. He asked God why. He began to despise the day he was born. He questioned the meaning of life, the validity of his own existence, and allowed the deep groaning of his spirit to rise in anguish before his Maker. Yet in chapter ten, in the midst of his prayer of complaint, Job anticipated, without realizing it, the great mystery of the incarnation:

I will say to God, Do not condemn me; Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the schemes of the wicked? Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as humans see? Are your days like the days of mortals, or your years like human years, that you seek out my iniquity and search for my sin?

Christmas is God’s definitive YES to Job’s desperate questions. Do you have eyes of flesh? “Yes, look no further than the manger and you will see for yourself.” Do you see as humans see? “Yes, as an infant refugee whose family had to flee to Egypt; as a carpenter’s child growing up in Nazareth; and finally as a Jewish man who walked the dusty roads of Palestine, slept with no place to lay my head, laughed with friends, cried at funerals, and ate with tax collectors and prostitutes.” Are your days like the days of mortals, or your years like human years? “Yes, like you I experienced great suffering from the hands of enemies, great betrayals from those who called me friend and teacher, and ultimately death from the hands of those who had once lauded and welcomed me.”

So there you have it – and unexpected Christmas text from the book of Job, of all places. No matter what trials this past year have brought you – no matter what struggles you are currently experiencing – no matter what anxieties you have about tomorrow or the year 2008, know this – God was not content to sit high and look low. God came to us in Jesus that first Christmas, and he has been coming to us ever since – in power, in love, in forgiveness, and in peace. This Christmas season, I invite you to once again receive the God who comes to dwell among us by the power of the Holy Spirit. The God who can say to Job and to us: I have seen with eyes of flesh … and because I lived, died, and rose again … you can see with the eyes of God.

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