This is our hope. This is our foundation. We sing the hymn of Amazing Grace but are we truly amazed of this grace? This is news worth being amazed about.
God in his mercy sent his own son to leave the comforts of the familiar to step into the maze and messiness of the unfamiliar. Jesus left his home to become homeless through his life and ministry on earth. This advent season we celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior. The word advent comes from the Latin word, adventus, meaning “coming”. We also must celebrate how Jesus is still coming today and revealing himself and changing lives through His Spirit working in and through the church around the world. We are His hands. We are His mouth to speak life. We are His feet to walk to places and nations to offer healing. We are the body of Christ. We also must celebrate how He will come again one day. But until that day comes, there is much labor and energy that must be given to the least, last, and lost on our planet who deserve dignity, self-respect, salvation, and hope.
This hope may be expressed in many forms but is always embodied in Immanuel, God with us. Those who encountered this man were transformed. He gave Mary Magdalene back her sanity, Zacchaeus back his self respect, Peter a second chance, the Samaritan at the well hope, and Paul a totally new life. As Frederick Buechner writes, “Zaccheus climbs up a sycamore tree a crook and climbs down a saint. Paul sets out as a hatchet man for the Pharisees and comes back a fool for Christ. It is impossible for anybody to leave behind the darkness of the world he carries on his back like a snail, but for God all things are possible.”
Some days I feel like a wanderer who needs to come home to familiar ground and saving grace. We seek meaning and beauty in a ruthless world and are in need of facing our failures and regaining our bearings. When we look to Jesus Christ our bearings are found because we see His beauty and the wickedness in our own hearts. As Buechner writes, “I am evil in the imagination of my heart and when I look into the mirror all in a lather what I see is at least eight parts chicken, phoney, slob. That is a tragedy. But it is also news that I am loved anyway, cherished, forgiven, bleeding to be sure, but also bled for.”
A poem from which I have reflected on numerous times this year, “This creator, Whose breadth of vision spans time – And spawns a cosmos; Whose woven tapestry of purpose, More compound than chaos, Eclipsing complexity, Rolls out like a highway through history; Whose heartbeat deafens supernovas. This playwright, playing with the deaths and entrances of stars; Scripting the end from the beginning; Knowing the purpose of the play; Watches my feeble audition, and writes me in.”
Thank you for your friendship, prayers, and financial gifts. Have a wonderful holiday and remember to celebrate. We have so much to be grateful for. Dream big in 2008!
A Christmas letter by Joel Vestal 12/21/07