We are off to a good start, that is, if like me, you believe that death is a loving gift from a caring Father. Where we will end up as we progress on this journey, only our Father knows, but it will be somewhere that includes a richer appreciation of the complexity, yet simplicity, of love. I personally believe that love, while simple in concept, in application is complex beyond anything else in life and over the course of the next 40 odd days (Sundays are not counted) hope to flesh that out for you (and myself).
I should note, in case you haven’t read much of my writing, that I write not to instruct, per se, but to explore and understand. I assure you that I get as much out of these exercises as I ever give. I also find it extremely fruitful, and enjoyable, to reread my postings. I don’t think we come close to fully understanding the depth of our own insights when they first arrive, so going back can be extremely productive.
Last night, during our Ash Wednesday service, I began thinking about the greatness of the Son’s sacrifice. Most often when we think of the AGAPE of Jesus, we think of the cross, of that seminal moment when sin is finally dealt with, when Adam’s transgression is erased and the Father’s promise is made real. So Christ’s death is a natural object of meditation during a service that is all about death and ashes. It did not take long, however, for my thoughts to move to an earlier point in Jesus’ life, his conception and birth.
One of my favorite verses from any song is the second verse of the Christmas hymn, Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
God of God, Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgins womb;
Very God, Begotten not created.
God, the Son, during the incarnation, became flesh and entered a woman’s womb. Can you imagine the shock of that? I get claustrophobic just thinking about it. Limitless eternity constraining itself for nine months into that small, dark, vulnerable space. But after the initial adjustment, at least the environment is pristine and protected, somewhat shielded within the heart space of the Father’s chosen vessel.
Yet, his divinity would not be fully contained and exuded out of that protected space into the world around his mother. It was so palpable that when Mary comes near to her cousin, who is pregnant with John the Baptist, and calls to her, John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb and she herself cries out a blessing. The same aspect of the unborn Jesus that touches John and Elizabeth must have touched everyone who passed nearby, or maybe in the providence of the Father this was a unique moment.
But, all babies must be born and the Lord of all creation had to go from that relatively perfect and unspoiled place of his gestation, into a creation that had been subjected to futility, and overridden with sin and disease of every kind. The assault on his perfect holiness when he finally comes into contact with the world that he came to save, the revulsion that must have assaulted him, would have been unimaginable. Yet he is born, grows up, and goes through thirty-three years of regular contact with sin and evil, and through it all remains miraculously restrained.
That for me is real AGAPE, real sacrificial love. I can’t even make it into work in the morning without my resolve at restraint being upset by more stupid drivers than I care to count and that only covers about forty-five minutes…
Tomorrow I want to begin looking at the four words that Greek uses to express the different aspects covered by our single English word. I believe that this will be a very important exercise. Words are significant to the Word, to the one who spoke creation itself into being. In addition, by choosing Greek as the vehicle to express the mystery and truth of the Gospel, I believe God wanted to say certain things in very specific ways that expressed important truths and I think you will agree that our word study on love will demonstrate that.
So, the holy, eternal Son enters into our fallen world. Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb. From the very first moment of his incarnation, he expresses his love for us. The eternal became limited that we who are limited may become eternal. May we respond in each new moment with a love worthy of that sacrifice.
Grace and peace.