On Christmas and showing up

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

Several years ago, while we were spending a season in the States, a dear friend’s mom died. It was unexpected, but the family had had some time to prepare, and I had been on the phone often with my friend. When the end came, I was conflicted about being able to make it to the funeral. It was a 6-hour drive away, and there were some specific things going on that had me reluctant to leave Melissa and the kids.

I talked to another friend, who gently but firmly said “I think it will mean a lot to him to see you, even if it’s just for a few minutes. People remember who shows up.” Of course he was right. I knew it the second he said it.

I made the drive down for the visitation. When I saw my friend’s sister, also a close college friend, she said “Wow, you were there when my dad died too.” After the visitation our tight little group went out to eat, watched a Georgia game, laughed and were silly together. It was the first time in years we had all been together, and it hasn’t happened since. I drove back the same night, and never regretted it for a moment.

People remember who shows up.

I remember who showed up in each of the darkest trials I’ve walked through. The immediate phone calls from pastors in the US when Eliza was diagnosed, and the friends who took turns flying over to spend a week playing with our kids and washing dishes. (The absolute champion mother-in-law who stayed for over 2 months!) A friend who drove 3 hours both ways to see me the last time I was in Georgia.

This is the glory of the Incarnation, and the heart of what we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus showed up. We rightly sing of the Cross and his sacrifice. But before he did that, he had to become flesh; he had to become one of us. He had always been the eternal Son of God, the “radiance of his glory, the exact imprint of his nature,” had always “upheld the universe by the word of his power.” He became human. He made his dwelling among us. He showed up.

He did this in order to heal the breach that had opened in our relationship with God due to sin. He also did this to fully experience what it means to be human: to be fallen from our original state, to live in a world that is broken and that breaks us, to be able to be sick and hungry and tired. To experience the death of loved ones. To suffer and to weep.

Christmas celebrates Jesus coming into the world that is. We don’t have to pretend it’s a perfect Dickens village. He knows the real thing. He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger. He chose not to leave us alone. He chose to show up.

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