The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
December 24, 2018 – Christmas Eve (late service)
God offers to every member of the human race, even the worst of us, the most one-sided trade proposal imaginable.
Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake [Christ] made Himself to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Christ came from heaven to take our sin and to give us His righteousness! He also came to trade our foolishness for His wisdom, our weakness for His strength, our cold indifference to His love. In sum, He offered an exchange in which, if we give Him our everything, He will give us His everything – and make us way ahead in the deal, for His everything is infinitely bigger than our everything.
That deal strikes many as too good to be true. Thus, God had to come down to meet with us eyeball-to-eyeball, and to plead with us to check Him out up close and personal, give the deal a try, and dare to believe in His crazy generosity.
From His birth in that Bethlehem barn to His Spirit’s pursuing a relationship with us through the outreach of His people, Christ has been hunting for every last one of us. He has been seeking to make a connection, win our trust, and ultimately save us from our fears, suspicions of Him and our own wayward nature
In His hunt to save us, or our hearts, God went to great lengths and became utterly vulnerable. Leaving the perfect blessedness of heaven, He traveled an infinite distance to meet us on our own ground and to enter our troubled human life. He downsized Himself to inhabit the confines of a young woman’s womb. He exposed Himself to all the dangers of earth and all the horrors of hell. He made Himself a nothing – serving us like a slave and letting Himself be nailed to a cross for us like a common criminal – that He might make each of us really something.
In this hunt, God put His heart on the line. God made Himself susceptible to our mistreatment, made Himself Someone we could hurt – and we did. But He endured the pain and the danger out of His heart’s desire to bless us and to strike up a friendship with us. There is no other faith that portrays God as that willing to suffer even for the undeserving.
Here is a true story that illustrates what was happening at that first Christmas: Years ago, four climbers were attempting to ascend a 6,000 foot near-vertical face in the Swiss Alps called the Eiger, when the snow beneath them gave way and they fell. Two of them disappeared into the bleak void and were never heard from again. The other two landed on narrow ledges a thousand feet below the summit, wounded, exhausted, and in imminent danger of dying.
Swiss officials forbade any rescue attempt, because the risk to the would-be rescuers was too great. A small group of climbers, however, decided to launch a private, unofficial effort to save those given up for lost. So they had a member of their team, a man named Alfred Hellepart, hang from a cable a fraction of an inch thick, and lowered him down into the abyss of the 6,000 foot North Face of the Eiger.
Hellepart describes his experience: “As I descended into the darkness…my comrades on top grew further and further away, until they disappeared from sight. At that moment I felt a shuddering aloneness. I peered down…and the terror of the sight robbed me of breath….The brooding blackness of the Face, falling away into an almost endless expanse of nothing below, made me look with awful longing to the thin cable vanishing in the mist. I was a tiny human being dangling in thin air between heaven and hell. The only thing that sustained me was…my mission to save those somewhere below.”
This story gives us some sense of what Christ went through to go hunting for us when we had no hope but in His seeking to find us and save us. At Christmas He lowered Himself into the abyss of our sin and suffering. He became a tiny human being dangling between heaven and hell. He exposed Himself to every risk, including the dark oblivion of our Fall.
Let us then this Christmas be stunned anew by the wonder of Christ’s love and courage.
Let us also this Christmas remember that, with ongoing vulnerability in His concern for us, He is still hunting us down to develop a greater closeness between us.
Finally, let us this Christmas provide Him room in the inn of our hearts, that we might be filled with a divine love that is more than enough for us — and more than enough to share with everyone around us.
Let us pray.