In Jesus’ birth and crucifixion, God is laying down all that God could…in order to have relationship with us.
Watch above: Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York offers an extended reflection for Christmas. A transcript is below.
How will your life be transformed as you make room for Jesus this Christmas?
The good news of Jesus Christ is ours to embody, ours to proclaim, right now, in this place where we are, wherever that may be. It isn’t some big thing that happens “out there.” It’s how we greet the person at McDonald’s, or how we drive our car, or how we speak with our brother, or sister, or family member. How we act in those moments, where it’s so easy to abdicate responsibility and say, “Well, I was just angry.” That is the manger. That is the cross. That is our moment of taking up our cross daily and following Jesus. If our words and our actions don’t honor the dignity of another, then our words and actions need to change, even if we’re afraid.
And so, in this Christmas season, to embody Jesus, if I’m going to welcome Jesus to my life, then I have to create space in my life for Jesus, and that means my life is going to change. It means it’s going to be transformed.
The Gospelers spent a lot of time on how Jesus lived and a lot of time on Jesus’s teachings of salvation, that, “If you love me, you will feed my sheep. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. If you love me, you’re going to act differently than the world.” And what’s foolishness to the world is the way of Jesus. So Jesus is born, and God is incarnated, and lays down his life to come and bring this message of hope and peace to us, and walks among us. Knowing the world is going to reject it, knowing the world, in our own humanistic way, in the same way they rejected Jesus, we reject truth now. In both ways of Jesus’s birth and crucifixion, God is laying down all that God, in a way, could be, in order to have relationship with us in a way that is best for us.
There is joy in it, even in the hard places. God is with us. Emmanuel has come to us. God redeems all, and in the end, I do think Rob Bell’s right that love wins. Because it’s the greatest force. No matter how dark this moment may be, or how hard this time may be, the resurrection is coming and being worked out in us. So we’re not alone, but in order to really experience Jesus, we’re going to have to take up a cross. We’re going to have to lay our life down as we’ve known it and take up the life that God’s calling us to.
And there’s great joy in it, because the truth sets us free, and the closer we are to truth, the freer we become, the less afraid we are, because we know what we’re about. When we’re in that moment of fearing the most, we’re the closest to finding God, because God’s just on the other side of the fear. And if we just yield into it, and say, “Okay, Lord, I’m going to just yield in through the fear,” then we discover God, and resurrection, and hope, and peace, and freedom, and restoration that we didn’t think was possible.
In this time, so much is telling us to be afraid, and to have our actions be defensive or protective, to have our whole life run by avoiding fear, or controlling fear, or reacting to fear, and so little of our time is spent reacting to love, or for love, or in response to love. So part of the Christian movement of the work of Jesus is to be people who are responding to love and not to fear. Responding to love and compassion and not to disdain or hate. That’s where we’ll find freedom: when we do what Jesus calls us to do.
On the cross, Jesus is so free in a way, because while he’s lamenting, and saying “Father, don’t forsake me,” he’s also offering salvation to the thief next to him. He continues to be in relationship to all of the people around him, even in this extreme moment of suffering. He’s still relating to his mother: “Mother, here’s your son, and son, here’s your mother.” “You’ll be with me in paradise.” He never ceases to be about that core message of love, and relationship, and forgiveness. And then with his resurrection, we see the fruit of it.
It will win out. Love will win. God wins.