The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
December 22, 2019
At first glance it’s a book series for children, but in fact it is a sophisticated, metaphorical elucidation of the Christian faith. C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia focuses on the interaction of a majestic lion called Aslan, a Christ figure, with four children. The youngest, Lucy, has an especially deep and devoted love of King Aslan.
After a long absence, Lucy returns to Narnia and finds Aslan in a forest clearing. She rushes to him, throws her arms around his neck, and buries her face in his thick mane. The great beast rolls over on his side, causing her to fall, half sitting half lying, between his front paws. He touches her nose with his tongue, and his warm breath envelops her in a sweet fragrance. She gazes up into his large wise face, and exclaims, “Aslan, you’re bigger!” “That’s because you’re older, little one,” he replies. “Not because you are?” “I am not,” he says, “but each year you grow, you’ll find me bigger.”
May we this Christmas find the tiny Baby of Bethlehem bigger than before!
That Infant is, says Isaiah here, a “sign” of God, as deep as Sheol, as high as heaven. The Infant is “God with us”, or “Immanuel” in the Hebrew tongue.
The Infant is God moving into our neighborhood, God on our level eyeball to eyeball, God reaching out to us and hoping for reconciliation, God present in the flesh back then, and still present now in the Spirit.
This infinite Infant is God as approachable as a baby and as available as the air around us.
He is the Gift behind every other good gift, though better than them all. He is the Blessed One who both generates and surpasses all other blessings – and all He wants from us is a chance to bless us more than before.
He would be the uplift in our soul when we’re downcast, the steadier of our heart when we’re afraid, the illumination of our mind when we’re confused, the strength of our strength when we’re weak, the expansion of our life when we’ve come to the end of ourselves.
In the hope of the Christian faith, Jesus is the presence of the believer’s future, their salvation both in the hereafter and in the here and now.
That is who the Infant God is in objective reality.
The only question is how do we let Him be all the gift He can be for us?
Since Jesus is the infinite God in human flesh, we can, Christmas after Christmas, keep finding Him bigger and bigger! How? By being in relationship with Him! And how do we relate with Someone who is there but not physically so? First and foremost, by praying!
Now before some of you roll your eyes at the prospect of some pious platitudes, let’s get clear about what praying really is.
Some think praying is only asking God for stuff: help, protection, healing, insight and the like. Certainly, praying does involve making requests, and by praying we receive blessings we otherwise would not. But if that’s the primary purpose of praying, none of us will last long at it. For, sooner or later, we will pray and not get the answers we seek. The job doesn’t come, the baby doesn’t live, the relationship doesn’t get restored. If we think praying is all about receiving what we ask for, we will, upon experiencing disappointment in it, see no point to it and give up on it.
But maybe there is a deeper point to praying – one that is sometimes served by our not receiving what we request! What if the most wonderful Person in the world is standing right in front of us and aching to make a life with us, and the primary purpose of praying is not to get things from Him but to get close to Him? What if the primary purpose of praying is sharing our life with Him and allowing Him to share His life with us…and interacting with Him in a personal, ongoing relationship.
If Jesus, this infinite Infant God, is as wonderful as the Bible says He is, and some of us testify to His being, we won’t be discouraged from praying just because we don’t obtain from it what we want or think we need. For, more than for something, we are desperate for Someone like Him; and, though we may not be granted our every request, we will always, if we pray with an open heart, be granted Him – and the experience of His wonderfulness: His love, His calming presence, His strengthening encouragement, and His invigorating faith in our future. Though we may not have some good things we’d like, we become rich in joy, fulfillment, inner power, purpose, hope and love.
Praying is growing aware and staying aware of the presence of our future in Jesus by means of present-day, personal contact with Him. It is spending time with Him and paying attention to Him, listening to Him, letting Him get under our skin and into our heart, receiving His life into the depths of our soul, letting go and letting Him be all He is eager to be for us. Prayer is the means of connecting and keeping connected to the One who is the way, the truth and the life.
In itself prayer is as powerless as an electric cord not plugged into an outlet. To pray is to plug into the spiritual electrical grid of God’s great grace, and to be infused with an energy, power and light beyond our own. And how do we plug into God in prayer? By admitting we can do nothing to make it happen while simultaneously daring to believe that we don’t have to do anything to make it happen, except the “next to nothing” of trusting Him at His word and relying on Him to do everything necessary and essential.
We plug into Jesus by coming into contact with Him by the conversation that is prayer, maintaining that connection, and allowing Him to fill us with His electric presence, so that we might shine with the brightness of His life, and spread its glow to those around us.
With the birth of that baby in Bethlehem, the world’s future King took flesh in it; and, by His presence, His future kingdom began to build on earth. May we today commit to grow as the subjects of King Jesus, and may we manifest – by our obedience in love, justice and witness – His presence today…and so help others to find Him bigger than they ever before imagined Him!