On This Silent Night
This article appeared on Karen’s personal blog on December 17, 2015. It has been reposted with her permission.
On this silent Advent night, I’ve invited my sister and friend Sarah Lewis to share her thoughts on the extra-ordinary humanity of the little family of Promise. I’m honored to carry her meditation on my blog.
On the surface and at its bare bones, the Christmas story involves a pregnant teen out of wedlock living under an oppressive regime, in a world where her rights and worth were neither valued nor considered. Mary was poor, powerless, and marginalized. Her betrothed, Joseph, took on her shame by marrying her, and their baby was born in a barn. This young family was destitute, forgotten— even homeless! And yet, this is the landscape that God uses to draw near to us.
Transliterated from Hebrew, Immanuel means, “God with with us.” By Jesus being born into struggle and shame, we see that God cares about the marginalized among us. God becomes weak, vulnerable, and disenfranchised. He chooses to identify with the weak, by becoming one of them! This is not only good news for our world (that God loves the poor and the needy), but it is good news for our souls.
Whether you are financially stable, or have no roof over your head, spiritually speaking, the state of your soul is as desperate as a newborn whose bed is a feeding trough for an animal! Yet God chose to remedy our condition by sending his only son to be the vulnerable baby in a manger– and the vulnerable man on the cross. At the cross, the ultimate weakness and defeat became supreme power and victory, as Jesus defeated sin and death once and for all!
Knowing that Jesus came to be “God with us” in our weakness, in our sin and brokenness, in order to heal and save us, is what empowers us to enact ‘Immanuel’ with those around us now. We are to love the poor, the destitute, the hopeless, not only because that is who our Savior loves, but also because it is who we were in our sinful condition. In Christ’s lineage, from Abraham to David, you find murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, and everything in between! Isaiah 53 reads that “he was numbered with the transgressors.” Christ came to be numbered with broken, struggling, sinful people, like you and me!
It is the good news that I need. Though I may have all the trappings of a solid “Christian” life, I am acutely aware of my sin. I am often tempted, and failing. I have not the ability to do good, to love others, to worship my Lord, to serve Him. Sometimes I barely recognize myself. But Christmas is the good news. Christmas says that Christ came to identify with real, broken people. Christ was born into what looked like extreme failure and He came from a family of the worst sinners.
I need this gospel. I need to know that he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. I need to know that in my pining, he appeared, so my soul could feel its worth. I need to know that Jesus was pleased as man, with man to dwell, and that He became my Immanuel.
We need the Christmas gospel all year. Then will we adore him, and bring “God with us” to those who are in need.
Sarah Lewis grew up in a church-planting family, being part of developing churches in Virginia, Georgia, and in her native city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She serves at Liberti Center City & Main Line where among other duties, she helps to foster ongoing connections and spiritual formation among the body. Sarah is currently earning her master’s degree in Theological Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary.
Illustrator Everett Patterson was born and raised in New Orleans, LA and went to college at Columbia University in New York City. He self-published his first graphic novel in 2011 and worked as an assistant editor at Dark Horse Comics from 2012 to 2015. He’s currently illustrating for the educational video series The Bible Project. He’s a member of Door of Hope in northeast Portland, and a follower of Jesus Christ. Learn more about him and how the work “José y Maria” was developed at his website.