Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas and Angels

Well, it's over.  We've officially celebrated Christmas.  We've eaten the omelet.  We've unpacked the stockings.  We've opened the presents and hugged all the grandkids.  We've nibbled gingerbread men, and munched hors d'ouvres.  We've watched "The Grinch", and sipped some wine, and solved all the problems of the world while Joanna lay snoozing on the couch.

There was only one thing left to do:  READ COSMIC CHRISTMAS!  

Every year for the past ten years, I read Max Lucado's imaginary journey into the heavens that depicts what may have happened when God chose to send His seed into the womb of the virgin, Mary.  Every year I have tried desperately to get through this little book without shedding a tear.  Haven't done that yet.

Usually it's this passage that gets me going - it's the part where the Angel Gabriel is speaking, unheard by Mary, but understood by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, nestled against His mother's breast:

"Do you know who you hold, Mary?  You secure the Author of grace.  He who is ageless is now moments old.  He who is limitless is now suckling your milk.  He who strides upon the stars, now has legs too weak to walk; the hands which held the oceans are now an infant's fist.  To Him who has never asked a question, you will teach the name of the wind.  The Source of language will learn words from you.  He who has never stumbled, you will carry.  He who has never hungered, you will feed.  The King of creation is in your arms." - p. 95, 96 Cosmic Christmas

However, today, before I got to that part, I had already broken down.  

It was because of the angels.

Years ago, more than 25 years ago, it was an ordinary day.  I had run out to the Christian school to pick up our oldest daughter.  My four year old, Heather, had begged to come along for the ride.  I relented, and Rick stayed at home with the others.  

I was in a rush, so I told Heather to wait in the truck while I ran in to get her sister.  We weren't more than a minute, and we hurried back.  Heather was sitting there, and I opened the driver's door, allowing Adeena to clamber in before me.  "Put your seatbelts on," I urged, then started the truck and headed up the hill, turning left onto the highway.

As I turned, to my horror, the passenger door flew open, and out fell Heather.  I slammed on the brakes, and sat there, frozen, convinced that I had just killed my daughter.  I must have run her over - how could that back tire have missed her?

An instant later, there she was, climbing back in.  She didn't look hurt at all.  I hollered at her, shaken to the core:  "Why didn't you put your seatbelt on?  Why were you playing with the door handle?"  I was distraught, and I lashed out in frustration.  Heather stammered out a few words of explanation, which I didn't hear.  I was too intent on driving home, and too shook up to listen.

Much later - weeks, months, years...I am not sure - Heather told me that she never hit the ground that day.  She fell out of the truck, straight into the arms of a man.  She felt herself caught, and she heard a voice inside her head telling her that she was okay, and that she should get back into the truck.  She knew, deep down, that this "man" was an angel...and that he had caught her and saved her life that day.

We were discussing this angel story in the living room one day, and Jared piped up:  "That happened to me, too!  I was in the back of the house, by the wrecked-down barn, when I was about 5.  I knew I wasn't supposed to be back there, but I was having fun exploring.  I was on the top of the rubble wall, and lost my balance.  A man in white caught me - he just appeared out of nowhere - and told me to go home.  I never told you because I knew I'd be in trouble.  I wasn't allowed to be back there."

Two different children.  Two different angel stories.  

The Bible tells us in Psalm 91:11 that he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  Angels are commanded to watch over God's children - those who make the Most High their refuge.  God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble.  He sent His angels to guard my children, to keep them from harm, even though it was their own foolishness (and their mother's neglect) that caused them to be in danger.

But get this:  He did not spare His own Son!

Max Lucado captures it beautifully in the fictional words of the Angel Gabriel:

As we looked at the baby  Jesus, the darkness lifted.  Not the darkness of the night, but the darkness of the mystery. . . Our minds were filled with Truth we had never before known.  We became aware for the first time of the Father's plan to recue those who bear His name. . . 

At once amazed and stunned, the eye of every angel went to the one part of the child: the hands which would be pierced.  "At the pounding of the nail," God told us, "you will not save Him.  You will watch, you will hear, you will yearn, but you will not rescue." p.92, Cosmic Christmas

The angels, God's messengers, protected MY children, yet were ordered to stand by and do nothing while God's Own Son was led like a Lamb to the slaughter.  

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

What manner of love is this?  God did not spare His own Son, yet He spared mine.  God spared my daughter.  He spared ME.  

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor anything in all creation, can separate me from God's love.  And that love included sending His only begotten Son to be the propitiation for my sin.  There was no other way.  I needed to be rescued.  The price had to be paid.  And it was paid, that day on Calvary.  

33Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [9] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors throughhim who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


gail said...

Janet, that was a powerful story. :o)
~gail (psonenineteen)

Adeena said...

I had nightmares for months after that. Heather always got run over, and had tire marks on her belly - like in a cartoon. Only, she was bloody. ;) So glad that's not what happened!

Gabriel's words remind me of the song "Mary, did you know?". It makes me cry every time I hear it. Kalan Porter does it best, I think.

Kim from Canada said...

Janet, your story brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

Janet said...

Thanks for commenting, Ladies. I often don't reply (forgive me!) but know that I really appreciate the feedback. Blessings to you all.