Thursday, December 2, 2021

Welcome the Wind

As believers in modern times, we often take our salvation for granted. We don't tend to think about what salvation looks like; what it really means. But the prophets of old, as 1 Peter tells us, marveled at what salvation would look like, and who it would actually be for. Could they even picture us, living in the 21st century?

Here is the passage:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. – 1 Peter 1:10-12
These are not usual Christmas verse. In fact, they seem to direct our gaze towards Jesus’ suffering and glory (death and resurrection). But all of this is for us. The cross was not the first moment of Christ’s suffering. He lowered himself into our lives—full of pain, suffering, and loss. It is one of the great mysteries: that we share in his suffering because He first joined us in ours.

When God answered the centuries-long prayers of Israel by sending His son, He was knowingly allowing his children to encounter a long list of hard things. Yet the hiccups in the Nativity story don’t often faze us. 2000 years later, they don't seem like a big deal. But if you've ever struggled with a season God has you in (raise your hand if you're human), then you know. The little things all matter. Zechariah's muteness; Mary's shame; Joseph's uncertainty; the long, hard journey to Bethlehem; nowhere to stay once they reached Joseph’s hometown; having to rest among smelly animals; no one to help Mary deliver her baby; having to receive unexpected guests; the Wise Men encountering an unfriendly King Herod; Mary and Joseph having to flee to Egypt, and the list could go on. Those are just some of the things that Scripture records. But every bit of struggle, inconvenience, and hardship is important to the narrative.

I don’t think the prophets would have been surprised. They served a God who didn’t wipe away calamity but walked through it with them. The people of the Old Testament—even having to rely upon priests and prophets—understood the concept of Immanuel much better than we do; much better than first century Israelites did as well.

But if we stop and think, each of our salvation stories (the big S salvation, and the daily act of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”) reflects the road Christ took. Even before His birth, the road was fraught with both “suffering and glories.”

Sometime this past summer I listened to author KJ Ramsey speak on a podcast. She told the story of a biodome in Arizona, a man-made biosphere meant to research the possibility of sustaining life on a far flung planet. The plants were growing well and quickly, but one thing the scientists neglected to include: wind. You see, the trees grew so tall, yet their roots were under-developed. Trees need wind. The push and the pull, and sway and the rustle of leaves actually strengthens the tree’s root system. The struggle is necessary for a strong tree.

So too with humans. That is the beauty of the Nativity story. It reminds us to welcome the wind. And to trust that God knows and sees the gales He is leading us through. For His glory and our good.

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