Throughout Advent we have been looking at the stories in Jesus’ family tree. People who were desperate, vulnerable, and proud. The kind of people who really do need to be rescued. Sometimes they remind us of ourselves. Sometimes they remind us of our families and friends. They are real people with real junk who need a real Savior.
On Sunday I observed, “in this baby’s family tree is the desperation of Tamar, the self-righteousness of Judah, the vulnerability of Ruth, the entitlement of Uzziah, and the marriage of Joseph…” What if these things are a part of your experience as well? What do you if your story is a lot like the people in Jesus’ story?
We rest in the empathy of our Lord.
We rest in the knowledge that God gets us and that God is with us.
Andrew Thompson coordinates our middle and high school ministries. I really appreciate the way he is trying to [literally] flesh this out. Read on for a treat from our APEX guy.
The difference of Emmanuel
A friend told me yesterday that she’s wrestled with plantar fasciitis for the past four years, a nasty disease that tightens up the muscles in the foot and calf causing pain when you walk. On the phone, I empathized with her because I too had suffered from the same irritation in college.
My conversation with Ginger made me think of two points from David’s sermon form this past Sunday, that God is Emmanuel, a God that understands everything about me. But why does it matter for us that God is both of those things: present and understanding?
The significance of empathy
When I lost my grandfather several years ago, the best conciliation I received was from a friend who just came and sat with me. Another buddy (who I’m sure had great intentions) started giving me advice on what I should do to get over my grandfather’s death. That ticked me off! But when Dave, a dear friend, simply sat beside me without saying much and put his arm around, that made a significant difference. I couldn’t tell you what happened by Dave sitting next to me but I knew he cared, and I knew that I wasn’t alone.
Jesus demonstrates the significance of empathy through Christmas,
“For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God… Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Heb. 2:17-18
When I told Ginger, “I know how you feel, don’t give up hope!” it mattered because I’d walked through that pain and I knew how she felt. I could genuinely say, my feet felt like this, I tried this night splint, here’s what worked, here’s what didn’t. Because I’ve been there I could give personal, intimate help, not distant theoretical advice.
Sometimes I think that believing in Jesus must mean he’ll fix all my pain, make my family better, show me exactly what to do with my life, and toss in a sweet Fuji Altamira bike too. But Jesus doesn’t promise that, he says: “I am with you always, even until the ends of the age.” (Matt. 28:20). This is one of the great hopes that I gravitate towards in the Gospel – that somehow, God gets me, he hasn’t left me alone.
Dorothy Sayers once wrote in Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,
“[Jesus] has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life to and the cramping restrictions of hard word and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace, and thought it was worthwhile.”
If Jesus can grow up with a mom who got pregnant before the wedding, in a family that doesn’t have it all together; If Jesus can experience fear in the lonely hours of Gethsemane; if he can pray and then walk through beatings, insults, and finally death. If he can do all that, then he can understand what you and I are walking into this Christmas. Whatever it is, he understands, he’s been there.
Maybe that’s what Christmas is about. Ok I don’t see Jesus when I’m walking around, or hear an audible voice telling me he’s here now, but I think that is where faith comes in. Maybe your family is like mine: we argue, tensions sometimes run high, and there’s baggage from the past. But whatever situation we walk into, Jesus is in the room with me and with you. He’s the Prince of Peace, the best friend that’s there -he understands. And that makes all the difference.