Christ our Hope
Dr. David Draper
The only grandson in the family, I was the apple of my grandmother’s eye. I knew I had a special place in her heart. Nanny’s refrigerator always seemed to have food I liked: stewed apples and raisins in winter, pumpkin pie in fall, tapioca pudding in spring and fresh fruit pies in summer (to name just a few!). None of us was rich but I knew when I needed extra money for clothes or school, I could depend on Nanny.
But the best part was that she lived next door on the farm, making her readily available to me. She was a big lady with a small lap, but I was never too old for her to pull me to herself and hold me close. During summer thunderstorms she would take me to the front porch, hold me on her lap and say, “Can you smell the rain?”
Nanny was also a great encourager. No one in my family had ever graduated from high school. But she left no doubt in my mind that I could and would be the first.
Then there was Christmas. The family would gather in her big kitchen for more food than could be imagined. The special treat was always fresh shrimp steamed in Old Bay seasoning (still my favorite food!). When I was with her everything was okay and I didn’t have to be afraid. Obviously, she impacted my world beyond my understanding.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases John 1:14, “The Word [Jesus] became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” With His birth at Christmas, Jesus left the glory of heaven to live life as we know it, to experience what we experience, to feel what we feel, to live next door. He did it with the ultimate goal of adopting us into His family where each of us is the apple of His eye.
The plan for Jesus to come to earth was formulated with you and me at the forefront. Jesus came to introduce us to His Father and demonstrate His divine love. The Father’s plan was for Jesus to invite us to life with Him for our years on earth and then to live throughout eternity with Him in Heaven. Jesus’ coming was to provide an invitation and means for us to go to Him.
Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus’ coming to the neighborhood, demonstrating a servant’s heart and great tenderness for humanity. He gave up so much that we could have so much in Him. Not only did He come as a helpless infant, He also grew with an attitude of putting others first.
At the same time, the Father invites us to demonstrate sacrificial love to our world. It’s our turn as God’s adopted and beloved children to move into the neighborhoods of friends, neighbors and strangers to make a difference in their lives. It’s time for us who are followers of Jesus to look around and be sensitive to others’ needs. It’s a season to renew our commitment to help others recognize that God and we value them.
Picture it this way: God the Father comes to us through Jesus and in a way pulls us onto His lap. His goal is to show us how special we are to Him. He then sends us to make a difference in others’ lives and help them experience their value.
As I observe people, I see faces filled with wonder and joy. I also observe others showing grief and deep anxiety. If Jesus had chosen to enter our neighborhood in our time, He would have been right in the midst of the hustle and bustle as a focal point of peace, grace and joy. He would be rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. When we are aware of His constant presence, we come to recognize that although we don’t necessarily experience everything as we want it to be, we nevertheless don’t have to be afraid. He is present and here to help us (Isaiah 41:13).
My grandmother was a Christ-like figure in my life. Many people in our neighborhoods need such figures in their lives. What an opportunity to demonstrate the message of Jesus moving into their neighborhoods, never to leave. It’s time to celebrate this incredibly wonderful news. It’s also our time to serve others as neighbors so that they, too, will be ready to allow Jesus to move into their neighborhoods.
Dr. David Draper (Ph.D., Bowling Green State University) serves as President of Winebrenner Theological Seminary.