By yesterday afternoon, I was peopled-out. A Saturday morning worship-team practice with a group of amazing people, dinner and a beautiful concert with family, two Sunday morning church services then dinner and conversation with more friends – each in itself a special gift, but by the end I was longing for space.
I curled up for a nap. The bed was soft, the blankets warm, and the quiet—ahhh. I breathed deeply the silent spaciousness. The words filtered back into my consciousness: “He brought me out into a spacious place, he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Ps 18:19)
Until that moment I’d not considered how the incarnation creates and guards for us a spacious place. In the days leading up to Christmas I’m more often aware of tightness: the rush to finish assignments and pack to fly home and wrap gifts and help finish preparing the Christmas eve service. So many things to do, and the 24 hours of the day still contain the same number of minutes, the same quota of energy. So many places I want to give, and the money only goes so far. We sing of peace and joy and when in the crowded tightness expectations are knocked to the ground and shatter like crystal we feel we’ve failed. Or someone else has.
But could the shattering of expectations be the breaking of waters before the birth of the child—a waking into the final moments of pregnancy; a push toward the coming birth; a mess, to be sure, but a needful mess, pressing us on toward delivery from cramped darkness into bright wide spaciousness? Not a missing of Christmas at all, but a living of the full mess and mystery of it if we are but given eyes to see.
A grand mystery, this, that God would curl Himself tight in the darkness of a womb to bring us out, born along with Him, into a spacious place.
The baby lies there in the manger, and who would have guessed that His birthday was not just His, but yours and mine too? Jesus, the firstborn over all creation, makes us not just second-born children, but part of the “church of the firstborn ones” (Heb 12:23). There are no second-borns in God’s kingdom, for the only way in is not “after Christ” but “in Christ.” In most physical births, the head of the infant, delivered first, does the hard work of opening the birth canal; the remainder of the infant then slips out easily. Jesus does the same for us. As head of the church, He opens for us the way into the life and love of the Trinity; we, his body, are firstborn along with Him, given every spiritual blessing in Christ, accepted and loved as the Father loves the Son and welcomed to share his traditionally firstborn role as kings and priests.
Born with Him and in Him into the wide-open love of the Trinity, there’s space to be human without fear or guilt or shame. Hunger, anger, fear, fatigue, a need for quiet space away from the crowds—Jesus lived all of these human experiences fully, revealing each as a place to experience again the love and strength of His Father.
I speak sharply and grieve the sin so obvious in me. And here in the tightness of my sense of failure I find another layer of space, the space of grace that makes room for me to hear again His voice in the place I’ve messed up, “This is where I want to love you.” The gentle space He opens invites me to see, without despair, the places I still need to grow; as I walk with Him through those places, the Child will keep growing in me and I in Him and when I’m finally birthed into the next world and see Him face to face, then I will be like Him, glorious in full freedom and holiness.
I step into the spaciousness—and come up against another layer of humanness and sin that slows me down. It’s another place to find myself loved. I long to run further in, and I long to bring others with me. Couldn’t offering this spaciousness—space to be human, to make choices different than mine, to mess up and be loved and forgiven and to keep growing our whole lives long—be the greatest gift I offer to those around me this year? I bring my willingness and longing to the One who lives in me and in whom I live.
Oh, You who curled Yourself in the dark crampedness of a womb to birth us into a spacious place, bring us more fully into that spaciousness as we celebrate Your birth, and ours with You.
firstborn over all creation – Col 1:15
church of the firstborn ones – Heb 12:23. “Firstborn” is plural in the Greek.
in Christ – Rom 8:1; 1 Cor 1:30, 15:22; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 1:13, 2:10,13 and others
every spiritual blessing in Christ – Eph 1:3
loved as the Father loves the Son – John 15:9; 17:23
kings and priests – Rev 1:4-6; 5:9-10; 1 Pet 2:5,9; c.f. Num 3:12-13 and John 17:14,16,18-19
we shall be like him – 1 John 3:2