I pull myself, weary, from bed this morning. Cobwebs thick in my mind, my heart reflecting the chill that holds the world outside my window in its grip. Icy, white, windswept world.
Coffee. I need coffee.
Cup full, I will myself to the chair, there, set in the corner, flanked by windows, morning sun streaming in.
Word. I need the Word.
I know this, but the heart is cold. It resists. It was Lewis, I think, that spoke of this, of this waking up each day an unbeliever, his heart grown cold as he slept. His need to warm his affections anew for God in the face of a day and its demands. Of the need to listen to Yahweh's voice. His voice in his Word.
"It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
I utter a simple prayer, the most I can muster this morning,
"Speak Yahweh. Speak to me today."
I turn to my Bible reading plan for the year, and go where it directs.
Micah, chapter 6.
Icy words. Yahweh's complaint against his people, a people frozen in their unbelief and disobedience.
"Here is what Yahweh says:
...listen to Yahweh's complaint!
He has a case against his people.
He will bring charges against Israel.
O my people, what have I done to you?
What have I done to make you tired of me?
For I brought you out of Egypt
and redeemed you from slavery.
I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you.
Don’t you remember, my people,
how King Balak of Moab tried to have you cursed
and how Balaam son of Beor blessed you instead?
And remember your journey from Acacia Grove to Gilgal,
when I, Yahweh, did everything I could
to teach you about my faithfulness.”
(Micah 6:1-5, NLT)
I am Israel.
How could I, in my weariness, be weary of Yahweh? How could my heart be cold, affections chilled, pursuit frozen? When he has done so much?
I need to know what to do, what to pray, how to turn this around.
"What can we bring to Yahweh?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?"
(Mic 6:6–7, NLT)
Yes, this is what I need - tell me what to do. Tell me what to offer. I'm good at this, good at doing. Name the offering, describe the task to get to you, to make it right, to break free from how I feel. If it is doing you want, I'm ready.
"No, O people, Yahweh has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God."
(Mic 6:8, NLT)
Not sacrifice, but righteousness.
Mercy toward others.
A contrite and humble walk with Yahweh, my God.
But an offering seems...less difficult. A sacrifice, easier to get my mind around and understand. How do I meet these heightened requirements? How is this kind of life, this kind of living, possible?
I look out the windows and consider. I talk with Yahweh about this for a while. There are few words, and much searching. And then a thought arrives, seemingly along the rays of sunshine streaming in upon me this morning. A vision of Jesus, just read the morning before:
"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, [a King!],
one whose origins are from the distant past.
The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
will return from exile to their own land.
And he will stand to lead his flock with Yahweh's strength,
in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
for he will be highly honored around the world.
And he will be the source of peace.
(Mic 5:2–5, NLT)
O, what child is this!?
This is the only way I can come out of the exile of my own, cold heart.
He is the One who will lead me to Yahweh. He is the One who lived the perfect life, lived this perfectly, these requirements to love, and live, so that I can love, and live. He is the one bringing peace with the God who rightfully has a complaint against me.
"You can feel it in your bones sometimes when you stop for a moment - like life's this stairway that you just never stop climbing, this ladder that goes on forever without end.
Like all these lists are rungs, like your failures stretch from earth up to heaven, like all your rest feels like lying down on one unforgiving stone.
Sometimes you're just the most tired of trying to be strong.
You have these Jacob dreams, and you dream of what might be. And this is the dream that comes true - that makes all the stressed things come untrue: the real amazing dream is that there are no ladders to climb up, because the King came down...to get to you.
King Jesus himself interprets the dream: "I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth" (John 1:51, NLT, emphasis added).
Jesus doesn't show you the steps to get to heaven - Jesus is the steps to heaven.
Jesus doesn't merely come down to show you the way up - Jesus comes down to make Himself into the Way to carry you up.
Jesus doesn't ultimately give you a how-to, because Christianity is ultimately about Who-to.
Every religion, every program, every self-help book is about steps you have to take. Jesus is the only One who becomes the step - to take you.
To take us who are the Jacobs, the dog tired and the debtors, the deluders and the desperadoes. To take us who are the lost and the long-way-from-arriving, us who are bone weary of all the trying and the striving. Messiah becomes the one step we can never take - and takes us. He comes to us like He comes to Jacob - He comes to us not in spite of our failings - but precisely because of them. Ours is the God who is drawn to those who feel down. Ours is the God who is attracted to those who feel abandoned. Ours is the God who is bound to those who feel broken.
Everywhere stairways for the sinners, everywhere ladders for the lost, everywhere gateways to God.
This is grace.
This is reason to slow [down].
This is not to be missed."
(from The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp)
This, beloved, is Advent.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus, Messiah.