Imagine infinity—imagine absolute life and infinite power, with no beginning and no end. Imagine infinite size and mind, boundless knowledge, unapproachable holiness in both being and motive—perfection beyond anything anyone ever dreamt—ultimate power to create and destroy with utter absence of malice entwined with supreme, omniscient Justice. Such power—such absolute personhood—holy and just, vast and unstoppable—light so brilliant and holiness so blinding that only the holy can enter. Yet He is compassionate, tirelessly loving, overflowing with grace and mercy—all superlative qualities lavished on sullied beings—on the rebellious, rejecting, wicked little creatures that He, in the beginning, created to be the recipients of His giving nature—of all His love and grace. Suddenly the simple, often clichéd words Jesus told a desperate Pharisee take on new force, new weight, fresh worship:
“For God so loved—He gave…”
And, as if that were not enough, He told us to approach this infinite, eternal, all-powerful, all knowing, all holy, all righteous, all discerning, supremely just, immeasurably vast God as “Our Father…”
That is miraculous. That is Christmas.
O come let us adore Him.
I confess have a favorite movie—Babette’s Feast*. Babette, a spectacular chef who fled the French Revolution, made a feast for a village of Christian people who hated each other. The table was set with more than food—it was rich with joy, mercy and reconciliation. Just like Jesus when He ate with sinners. I hope you’ll watch it someday.
Near the end a surprising character, Old Lorens, offers a wonderful toast…
“Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another. Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.” —Old Lorens Lowenhielm, Babette’s Feast
*Rated ‘G’, French-Danish, with subtitles
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
It’s like a chapter from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—hope dims in the creeping clouds of Mordor while armies driven by fear and rage cower in the eaves of the deepening shadows. But it was just today’s Facebook and news reads. Angry? Depressed? Fearful? Hopeless? It’s easy to slide into the reeking pits of the Land of Shadows.
Who do we believe? What is truth? We won’t find it in Mordor. The shadows “are only a small and passing thing,”—hope, truth, light remain like the stars and aren’t going anywhere. Man has made his mess, God made the stars.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” —Psalm 20:7–8
“The Birth of Christ is the Eucatastrophe* of man’s history. The Resurrection is the Eucatastrophe of the story of the incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.”
The greatness and power of the Resurrection of Jesus is beyond measure—it’s the superlative of all happy endings. If you are His, revel in it; if you aren’t, plunge into Him. You will live forever. Because He loves you.
I sometimes think about the cross
And shut my eyes and try to see
The cruel nails, the crown of thorns
And Jesus crucified for me;
But even could I see Him die,
I would but see a little part
Of that great love, which like a fire,
Was always burning in His heart.
—Bernard of Clairvaux
Well said, St. Bernard. Now it’s our turn to seek and see.
“He never went off subject.” —Journalist Tom Brokaw, of Billy Graham
No one had to ask what his subject was—when you heard the name Billy Graham you knew it was, without apology, Jesus.
Let me meddle a minute…
When others say your name, what do they think of? What do you aspire to be known for? Will it outlive you? Is it greater than you? More than that, what will you be remembered for? That’s the subject of your life.
Billy never went off subject—he knew that everything in life is less than Jesus except the people Jesus died to save. Do we? Like Billy, our subject is known by everyone around us, and it will be our epitaph.