December 25, 2017, 12:01am
One of the sacred facets of my relationship with my father is camping. But we camp exclusively within the technological boundaries of 1840 and earlier. That means no plastic, no electricity, and no rubber-soled shoes. My dad is a history buff and loves to live in the moccasins of the great trappers and hunters of the Mountain Man era. In my life, the two of us have camped in green mountains, dry riverbeds, valleys, and forest clearings. I wore an imitation coonskin cap like Davy Crockett until my head grew large enough for a real broad-brimmed felt hat. Dad taught me how to start a fire with flint and steel. He taught me how to load and shoot a muzzle-loader rifle. When I was big enough, he let me in on some of the tougher aspects of camping like setting up the ridge pole for our 10’×10′ canvas wall tent that kept us safe from the elements every night. There was something absolutely magical about this part of my childhood.
But as I grew older, I started feeling less and less at home in the delightful discomforts of camping. It was harder to leave the modern world I was used to. I started needing to charge my phone. Missing a shower after a couple of days wasn’t fun anymore. If I went 24 hours without brushing my teeth, I was afraid of getting cavities. And indoor plumbing, a clean bathroom without spiders all around — a luxury I felt less and less inclined to just give up. Now I only go camping with my dad once or twice every year. It’s a little too frustrating to go without so many modern conveniences. I often think about wonderful things like electric lighting, indoor temperature control, deodorant, washing machines, and the internet. It’s easy to imagine how people lived without them, but very hard to consider doing it myself now that I’ve experienced how much better life is with them.
One of the most baffling things to me when I think about Christmas is that out of all the ages of the earth (and He is the only One able to see all the ages), God chose to experience humanity firsthand at a time when roads were covered in horse and camel feces. The Son of God was accustomed to a magnificent throne. I imagine His view was filled with constellations that are yet undiscovered but He stepped into to a candlelit world. Some of the defining characteristics of God are holiness, righteousness, purity, radiant white glory. And He chose to come to earth before the majority of mankind even bathed on a regular basis. Life was substantially harder than it is now. Our hygiene and communication and commerce are so far advanced. Everything was inconvenient compared to what we have today. There are endless historical and prophetic reasons God became a man at the exact time He did, but taking this very trivial and nonspiritual departure, I see something about Christ’s timing that teaches me an important lesson. Inconvenience is inseparable from the story of Salvation. How inconvenient for the One Whose heavenly surroundings were the very meaning of splendor and majesty to come to earth when it was so unpolished. If you think the cross was the only sacrifice Christ made, think again. Every moment He spent on earth was a sacrifice. He had always existed outside the confines of moments. Imagine every time you’ve been frustrated by time. Then think about how frustrating it must have been for the eternal God to be limited to time for the first time ever.
Can you fathom the humiliation of exchanging the mind of the Creator of the universe for the mind of an infant? Imagine remembering before the first words “let there be light” were ever spoken. Imagine being the One Who spoke them, and then subjugating yourself to a mere human and letting that human teach you how to form simple words. How exasperating it must have been. How inconvenient.
Herod, the Wise Men, the shepherds, the innkeeper, Joseph, most of all Mary — inconvenience abounds in the story. From His first cry in the manger until His final cry on the cross, Jesus was inconvenienced. Think about all of the stories between His birth and death. People got in the way. They interrupted His journeys. Some seeking Him for a miracle, others seeking to destroy His reputation. Storms inconvenienced Him. His own disciples inconvenienced Him. But the most important thing about all of those inconveniences? Those are the stories that were written down. The miracles happened because people got in the way. His astounding theological prowess and revolutionary ideas are recorded in Scripture because of His many accusers’ unwarranted remarks. And the storms — those are my favorite stories. How could He display His mastery over the elements without them challenging Him? And how could God show Himself to be a friend without the messy and unpredictable adventures He shared with the disciples?
The world was comparatively primitive when He became one of us. With a barn for a nursery and a tree for a deathbed, even then He was experiencing life to a worse degree than most. How excruciating. I think it’s clear to see that Jesus likes inconvenience.
It’s possible that you think of yourself as an inconvenience. Maybe you feel like you’re in everyone’s way — a burden. Perhaps you suffer from something you would love to be free from but don’t want to trouble Jesus with it. You might feel that your past is too dirty to be cleaned up or at least too dirty for someone as holy as the Son of God to get involved with. He’s probably not accustomed to that. But truer than my crass observation of mortal life in the first century A. D. is the fact that spiritually, God chose to expose Himself to the elements of sin and the primitive, unpolished souls of you and me — sinners. This is not to say that He Himself was ever defiled. He never committed a sin. But He’s not afraid of the grime and the dirt and the trash in your life. God isn’t irritated that you have problems. He isn’t bothered by your needs. He isn’t angry about your mess. He’s excitedly waiting for you to invite Him in. He has a plan. You may be used to living in your mess, but He’s used to living in His glory. Whenever you see the nativity scene or hear the story, I hope you remember that Jesus decided to go out of His way to get in your way. If you ever feel like an inconvenience, remember that everything the Savior of the world ever did began with inconvenience. Don’t be afraid to get in Jesus’ way. After all, He is The Way.
Good night and Merry Christmas.