Today is Christmas – my twenty-seventh Christmas. Each year I find that I appreciate Christmas a little bit more. I appreciate the time with family. I appreciate the time of giving. And most of all, I gain a greater appreciation of the wonder of Christmas.
Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth. God coming into flesh and blood to live a life of service, and ultimately, sacrifice.
For twenty six years my Dad has read the Christmas story (Luke 2) on Christmas morning. This year my Dad decided to read something different. It wasn’t even a biblical text. It was a parable written by Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and theologian, called the King and the Maiden. It goes as follows:
The King and the Maiden
Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents.
And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden who lived in a poor village in his kingdom. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist-no one dared resist him. But would she love him?
She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know for sure? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.
The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend to her. Clothed as a beggar, he approached her cottage with a worn cloak fluttering loose about him. This was not just a disguise – the king took on a totally new identity – He had renounced his throne to declare his love and to win hers.
As my Dad concluded, he followed up with a short reading of scripture from Philippians 2:6-8
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
In my twenty-seventh year, this parable and this scripture brought a greater appreciation for the wonder of Christmas.
God humbled himself, gave his only son, to come walk in flesh and blood with us, in all our imperfections so that we could be made whole through Christ. While I’ve heard this many times, I’m not sure I truly internalized this until today. It’s like knowing the end of the movie before starting – you can gloss over the details when you know the plot.
I went back and read the Christmas story again on my own, but this time through the lens of the love story of the King and the Maiden. This brought greater perspective on the birth of Jesus. It is, and always has been, a love story.
This year, more than any year, I have been reminded that we are all imperfect and that in the midst of pain, division and polarization, we need love. On this Christmas I am reminded that there is no truer love than God’s love.
The beauty of God’s love is that it is unconditional. No matter what kind of year we’ve had God’s love remains the same. All we have to do is accept that love. And I can tell you that accepting that love will change you. You’ll find there is a different energy to your life and you’ll have more love to give. Whether you believe or not, one thing I think we can all agree on is that we can all use more love.
This year Brent Beshore shared a thread on Twitter about his journey in faith from atheist to believer. The central thesis is that after accepting God’s love his life changed. If you have two minutes I would encourage you to read.
My journey in faith has looked a bit different. I’ve been a believer my whole life, however, the depth of that faith has certainly ebbed and flowed. I too have had seasons closer-to and further-from God. The seasons of feeling distant have invariably come when I get consumed with my own life and treat God like a doctor I go to when I’m sick. But as I noted above – our relationship with God isn’t transactional like a doctor and a patient, it is a love story. And the more I’ve leaned into that love, the more I’ve found my life has felt fuller. And as a fuller person I have more to give.
So while Christmas is certainly a season of giving it starts with love. I encourage you, whether you are a believer or not, open yourself up to accept the free gift of love. Even if it is as simple as asking for a feeling of fullness. I pray that you feel full and that it impacts you in a positive way. It certainly has for me.
Merry Christmas, it’s a wonderful time of the year.