You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. Psalm 18:35 ESV
While the ESV gives us the picture of a Mighty God who is gently on our side, the old NIV renders that same phrase as, “He stopped low. Like Gandalf entering through a Hobbit doorway, in the Lord of the Rings, Jesus had to bend low enough to enter our world through the stable doorway in Bethlehem. He went to begging blind men, destitute widows and outcast lepers. Jesus had compassion on hungry listeners and washed the dirty feet of disciples. Jesus’ right hand was both gentle enough to bless a child and strong enough to lift a paralyzed man to His feet.
And when His time came He carried the weight of His cross to the top of Golgotha where those gentle hands were nailed to the wood. Then as He stooped His lowest in death, Jesus reached lower still as we were falling deep into our sins, and caught us, raised us up and gave us the greatness of His salvation. Oh how mighty and gentle is our Jesus! He gently stooped low enough to save us and then shared His greatness with His children!
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
Our plane had finished climbing to 30,000 feet and the pilot quietly announced that we were now free to move about the cabin, but my eyes were still tightly closed in prayer. No – I wasn’t just being religious – I was really terrified of flying! But on a six hour flight it is hard to pretend that you are sleeping for very long. When eventually, I opened my eyes, I noticed a young Chinese man seated across from me, gazing out his window in delight. We struck up a conversation and I learned that he was coming from Hong Kong to the United States and that this was his first time on a plane. The difference between His joy of watching the clouds and the scenery lay in stark contrast to my dark fears. Though I truly believed that if I died I would be with Jesus, I was still gripped by anxiety and my neighbor’s obvious joy made me feel ashamed.
He was enjoying the kind of rest that in our hurry towards Christmas, we all need to remember. Maybe we miss God’s purpose of rest because we feel that with any sort of inactivity we might be missing out. But God is at the controls of our lives and has given us complete freedom to move about the cabin and find rest as we delight in seeing where God is taking us on our journey.
We would be a lot more at ease if we remembered that Jesus patiently lingered nine unhurried months in the waiting room of Mary’s womb. Shepherds learned the Good News of great joy as they rested with their flocks. Even after Jesus was born, He rested in the place the Father had put Him while He was growing up in the tiny village of Nazareth.
In fact, Jesus had brothers and sisters with whom He had to share a straw mattress on the floor and eat the same simple family meals that Mary cooked. Never once does the Bible record a complaint, or reveal an attitude of impatience with him. Jesus simply waited for the day when His Father’s work would begin and He rested in the place where he was. Maybe it was there in Nazareth where He was taught to give thanks for bread and fish. While taking care of his chores He learned to wash feet for visitors, celebrate weddings and handle wood and nails. Then He patiently and painfully endured the cross for us, all the while resting in the thought that the end of hIS journey would be perfect. then before the resurrection Jesus rested three long days in the tomb. That same Jesus who could take a nap in a boat in a storm now invites us to also come, put our trust in Him and celebrate rest for our souls forever!
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 2 Peter 2:12 ESV
Last year the nativity scene at the entrance to our community was hit by raiders who must have decided that it would be a great joke to make off with the baby Jesus, leaving an empty manger. The rest of the Christmas season Mary, and Joseph remained along with a few sheep and camels but the child did not return even for Christmas Eve.
When December of this year rolled around I looked forward hopefully to a reunited Holy Family. But my hopes were dashed when I saw the same lonely group appear forlornly kneeling around an empty place on the hay. And then this morning Jesus made His appearance. No doubt this Baby in the Manger is firmly anchored and watched over by security cameras.
Just like last year’s manger robbers, some of our lives have been robbed of a Christmas joy and are facing the holiday alone, tired and maybe even bored with the entire ritual. But we have a hope and a far better one than the replica of baby Jesus in a manger scene. We have God’s promise that just as wise men traveled thousands of miles with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Jesus has promised to return with His gifts of forgiveness, peace and eternal life. So whether we live alone in an apartment, lie in a hospital bed or are blessed with a loving family: we have hope. Our King will certainly return and when He does He has promised to fill forever that empty place that waits for Him in our hearts.