Monday, December 24, 2012

Condescending, Rude, and Near

I'm sitting here in a quiest house on Christmas Eve with a fever, sore throat, and nasty head cold.  I thought I might just escape the virus that everyone in my family has had in the last two weeks, but it caught up with me on Saturday.  Kayla and Robert just left for the Christmas Eve service.  Kory, Cooper, and my sister Melinda are on their way home from Boston's Logan Airport with my brother, Stu, and his wife, Rachel.  Fortunately, I felt "well enough" to cook some food and wrap some gifts, but right now I'm happy to sit down and write about a Christmas idea that the Lord has overwhelmed with with in the last year.

I think it all started about a year and a half ago when I read R.C. Sproul's The Holiness of God. Actaully, no.  It started when the Lord began a relationship with me at about 7 years old, of course, but this teaching of "Immanuel," of "God with us" to my heart and mind began, I think, when I heard a song by Wes King called "Who But God?"  It goes like this:

who but God
would send His Son
to condescend
and make Himself the likes
of mere mortal men

who but God
would not regard
equality with God
a precious thing
not to be held onto

who but God
would condescend for us
and choose the weakness of the cross
wet the tears that conquered sin
that we might laugh with Him

who but He
who knew no sin
would make Himself
the very thing He knew
He could not look upon

endure the cross
and scorn its shame
and choose the very weak things
of this world to overcome the strong

only God would send His only Son
obedient to death our spotless one
servant savior so lowly now
soon every knee shall bow

It was that "condescend" word that got me.  It's not the modern definition which is about assuming a posture of superiority, but it's the first and main definition, which interestingly enough, means the exact opposite.

Condescend: to descend to a less formal or dignified level; to waive the privileges of rank.  

That use of the word really stuck with me.  Now, fast forward to two summers ago when I began reading The Holiness of God.  It's a fascinating, yet simple treatment of this characteristic of God.  He is HOLY, but what exactly does that mean?  Here's just one excerpt of many that served to completely overwhelm me with how "other" and perfect and majestic God is.

God's holiness is more than just separateness.  His holiness is also transcendent.  The word transcendence means literally "to climb across"...God is above and beyond us.  Transcendence describes His supreme and absolute greatness.  The word is used to describe God's relationship to the world.  He is higher than the world.  He has absolute power over the world.  The world has no power over Him.  Transcendence describes His supreme and absolute greatness.  Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness.  It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature.  He is an infinite cut above everything else. (p. 46)

So, He is holy, and yet He condescends ~ limits and lowers Himself to earth as a baby in a manger at Christmas.  A rude manger, and another first and main definition of the word "rude" as in "The Hymn of the Nativity:"

It was the winter wild,
While the heaven-born child
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature, in awe of Him
Had doffed her gaudy trim
With her great Master so to sympathize;
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour

Rude: being rough and in an unfinished state; natural, raw; lacking refinement or delicacy; offensive in action or manner.

The holy, majestic, transcendent God....condescends... to a ...rude... manger and world at Christmas.  Now, that is really something, but He knew that I wasn't quite as impressed as I should be by these images, these truths, so He sent me to Florida in June just so that I could hear Paige Benton Brown give her talk on the dedication of Solomon's temple at The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference.  Through it, Holiness Himself brought me to uncontrollable sobs over the realization of just how awesome, incredulous, and unreal is this condescension into rudeness by Holiness Himself.

And I know I've said it before, but you should really take 45 minutes and be overwhelmed yourself....

In the Temple: The Glorious and Forgiving God from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Without ever taking a breath {I don't think I did either}, Paige took us from the dedication of Solomon's temple when the glory of God filled it {impressively condescending enough} to the Cross of Christ {another temple dedication...quite rude} to these sinful, fleshly bodies of ours {the current temples...rude yet redeemed} to get us to see how "IN" Jesus is.  According to Paige, and according to my streaming tears, He is "ALL IN."

He who is the definition of holiness limited Himself to a fetus, a feeding trough, and what's worse, my own rude heart.

All of this led  me to search the keyword "near" on Bible Gateway the other day.  I scrolled through every verse in every book of the Bible, and here's a sampling of what I found...

For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Deut. 4:7

When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand.  So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter.  Esther 5:2

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

You are near, O Lord, and all your commandments are truth.  Psalm 119: 151

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. Psalm 145:18

"Am I a God who is near," declares the Lord, "And not a God far off."  Jeremiah 23:22

You drew near when I called on you.  You said, "Do not fear!"  Lamentations 3:57

"They shall enter my sanctuary; they shall come near to my table to minister to me and to keep my charge." Ezekiel 44:16

Now all the tax collectors and all the sinners were coming near to Him to listen to Him.  Luke 15:1

But now in Christ Jesus, you who were formerly far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  Ephesians 2:13

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.  Philippians  4:5

...and on the other hand, there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.  Hebrews 7:19

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  James 4:8

I wish I could wrap this all up really profoundly, but it's not totally possible with words ~ especially words struggling to arise from my feverish mind and body. Oh, how I did not and do not want to be sick on Christmas!  My literally ill-written summary is this:  I'm so grateful to be overwhelmed by Christ's condescension into rudeness on my behalf; that He would "waive the privileges of rank" to save me and to be so near to me that He lives inside of me giving comfort and hope.

He came near at Christmas and nearer still at the Cross.  I pray you would know His nearness.  I pray those in Sandy Hook, CT who are destined to have unwrapped gifts under their tree would know His nearness.  I pray that I would never cease to be increasingly overwhelmed by this unfathomable gift.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, Mel...may you feel completely better soon. Love from K&J