“Many people visualize a god who sits comfortably on a distant throne, remote, aloof, uninterested and indifferent to the needs of mortals, until they can badger him into taking action on their behalf. The Bible reveals a God who, long before it even occurs to man to turn to Him, while man is still lost in darkness and sunk in sin, rises from His throne, lays aside his glory, and stoops to seek until He finds him.” John Stott, Basic Christianity
That’s what Christmas is to me; the graciousness of a God who stoops. The God who puts aside his own glory and meets us where we are at. He takes the first step towards us. And the next. And the next. Like a long set of stairs, before we take our first step toward God we see God coming to us. Descending. Until he is so close all we have to do is open our arms to embrace him. Stephen Verney wrote, “This is the nature of the encounter, not that I am stumbling towards the Abba Father, but that the Abba Father is running towards me.”
In the Christian life, it’s important we understand the spiritual life does not originate with us. The Biblical narrative is the story of the God who pursues us and draws into relationship with himself. Think of all the characters of the Bible. Abraham, Moses, David, Paul. Think of their story. It’s the story of God coming to them and initiating his redemptive purposes. Again and again.
Eugene Peterson wrote,” The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.” The goal it seems is that we might respond as Mary did to the revelation of God’s intentions in her life, “May it be as you have said.” Like one who walks in late to a meeting we simply get to accept, enter into and submit to what God already doing in our heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:28-29). This is the ongoing rhythm of God’s initiative and our response that is the constant movement of the spiritual life.
In the Christmas story, we see it yet again. “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law” (Gal. 4:4). (Emphasis mine.) God’s intentions of redeeming mankind was initiated in Christ’s coming, demonstrated in the cross, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8), and yet is still on-going, “What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade. God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion” (Romans 3:27, 30). (Emphasis mine.)
The incredible thing is this: once we realize it is God’s nature to seek us out and draw us to himself, instead of struggling to “make the Christian life work” we cultivate hearts that are focused and alive to what God is doing to keep us in relationship with him. And there’s a kind of exhilaration because God is doing something….even in a little way, which is cause for great joy.
What is God up to in your life? What do you sense God initiating?
Take some time today to pay attention to what God is doing. How might you respond in a way, like Mary, that embraces what he is doing?