What comes to mind when you think of the person of God?
For some, the only image that comes to mind is an angry deity determined to cast his enemies into a lake of fire. For others, God is a vague idea that is defined by a human definition of love. For others, especially Christians, God brings forth images and descriptions of supernatural power. God is transcendent, holy, and glorious; the Creator and Sustainer of all creation by the power of His Word.
As I prepare for my Christmas Eve message at Renovation Church, the Holy Spirit highlighted for me a small (but significant) part of the Christmas story – Jesus was born as a baby.
I know you don’t find that amazing and it’s a detail you already know, but hang with me for a minute.
Many Jews in the first century were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Jewish Savior. Before Jesus (and after him) many arose from within the ranks of the Jewish people and proclaimed themselves to be the long-awaited Messiah. The Jewish people were under the control and reign of the marvelous Roman Empire. The Jews were forced to pay extravagant taxes, honor the emperor as the son of the gods, and submit their worship of the God of Israel to the laws of Rome.
But they had hope.
They believed the ancient Scriptures promised that God would send a divine warrior-king to set His people free and set up a theocracy on earth; elevating the Jewish people to a place of power, honor, and glory allowing them to crush those who oppress them. For many ancient rabbis, the belief was that the Messiah would simply show up on the scene, fully grown. The reason for this belief is that the Jewish people in the first century, like us, viewed God as supernatural, powerful, and glorious beyond words (which is all true).
Babies don’t really fit the picture.
But God, through his own sovereign choice, chose to enter into the mess of humanity as a helpless baby born in a manger. The scene was so incredibly ordinary that even the shepherds would have missed the significance of it if the birth wasn’t accompanied by a chorus of angels proclaiming the praises of this unique yet ordinary baby boy.
So… why does all of this matter?
Many of us do not hear the voice of God or behold His glory because we are looking in the wrong places. The majority of God’s people in the first century rejected Jesus because He didn’t fit their expectations. They expected a Savior who would conquer by killing his enemies; instead, they got a Savior who conquered by allowing his enemies to kill him. They expected a warrior-king who would simply “appear” fully grown and ready for war; instead, they received a helpless baby born to two teenage parents in the small town of Bethlehem.
One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament is about the prophet Elijah (whom we named our son after). After an incredible victory over the false prophets of his day, Elijah was beyond depleted and exhausted. He was on the run and fearful of losing his life. In the midst of his spiritual depression, God instructs Elijah to stand on a mountain and wait for the glory of God to be revealed. First, an incredible wind storm shattered parts of the mountain – a terrifying sight for this prophet – but the text says God was not in the wind. After the wind, Elijah felt the earth below his feet begin to move and heave with a great violence; the foundations of the earth trembled from a mighty earth quake – but God was not in the earthquake. Suddenly, out of seemingly thin air, a terrifying and consuming fire appeared before Elijah. Surely, Elijah must have thought, God is in the fire because that’s how he appeared to Moses… but God was not in the fire.
Wind… Earthquakes… Fire… All miraculous, terrifying, and powerful signs of God’s power but God was not found in any of them. Finally, Elijah heard a still small voice – an almost silent whisper; and He discovered God.
As you prepare for Christmas my challenge for you is to wake up to the ordinary whispers of the extraordinary God in your life. Reject the commercialized busyness, slow down, and seek to hear God’s voice through Scripture, nature, family, and silence.