The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus: ‘the Shipwrecked at the Stable’
Got this emailed to me today — and I have to post it.
…Is there anyone in our midst who pretends to understand the awesome love in the heart of the Abba of Jesus that inspired, motivated and brought about Christmas? The shipwrecked at the stable kneel in the presence of mystery.
God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory but in the way of weakness, vulnerability and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.
The Bethlehem mystery will ever be a scandal to aspiring disciples who seek a triumphant Savior and a prosperity Gospel. The infant Jesus was born in unimpressive circumstances; no one can say exactly where. His parents were of no social significance whatsoever, and His chosen welcoming committee were all turkeys, losers and dirt-poor shepherds. But in this weakness and poverty, the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God. The shipwrecked at the stable tremble in adoration of the Christ child and quake at the in breaking of God Almighty, because all the Santa Clauses and red-nosed reindeer, fifty-foot trees and thundering church bells put together create less pandemonium than the infant Jesus when, instead of remaining a statue in a crib, He comes alive and delivers us over to the fire that He came to light.
The shipwrecked at the stable are the poor in spirit who feel lost in the cosmos…finding it not only tacky but utterly absurd to be caught up either in tinsel trees or in religious experiences. They have been saved, rescued, delivered from the waters of death, set free for a new shot at life. … what is the shipwrecked saying? Let go of your paltry desires and expand your expectations. Christmas means that God has given us nothing less than Himself. Don’t order just a piece of toast when eggs Benedict is on the menu. Don’t come with a thimble when God has nothing less to give you than the ocean of Himself. Don’t be contented with a ‘nice’ Christmas when Jesus says, ‘It has pleased My Father to give you the Kingdom’. ..Anything connected with Christmas that is not centred in Christ Jesus–tree, ornaments, turkey dinner, exchange of gifts, worship itself, is empty gesturing. Blessed are shipwrecked for they see God in all the trappings of Christmas and experience a joy that the world does not understand.
Don’t be so preoccupied with the purity of your heart. And once you’ve turned to Jesus, don’t turn back and look at yourself. Don’t wonder where you stand with Him. The sadness of not being perfect, the discovery that you really are sinful, is a feeling much too human, even borders on idolatry. Focus your vision outside yourself on the beauty, graciousness and compassion of Jesus Christ. The pure of heart praise Him from sunrise to sundown. Even when they feel broken, feeble, distracted, insecure and uncertain, they are able to release it into His peace. A heart like that is stripped and filled–stripped of self and filled with the fullness of God. Holiness is not a personal achievement. It is and emptiness you discover in yourself. Instead of resenting it, you accept it and it becomes the free space where the Lord can create anew. To cry our, ‘You alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord’ that is what it means to be pure of heart. And it doesn’t come by your Herculean efforts and threadbare resolutions. Simply hoard nothing of yourself; sweep the house clean. Sweep out even the attic, even the nagging, painful consciousness of your past. Accept being shipwrecked. Renounce everything that is heavy, even the weight of your sins. See only the compassion, the infinite patience and the tender love of Christ. Jesus is Lord. That suffices. Your guilt and reproach disappear into the nothingness of non-attention. You are no longer aware of yourself…even the desire for holiness is transformed into a pure and simple desire for Jesus.
For the shipwrecked, becoming a little child means accepting oneself as being of little account. When Jesus tells us to become like little children He is urging us to forget what lies behind. Children have no past. Like little children the shipwrecked don’t bring the baggage of the past into the stable of the present moment…the single most important consideration during the sacred season of Advent is the intensity of desire. An intense inner desire is already the sign of His presence in our hearts. The rest is the work of the Holy Spirit. The only explanation of why the shipwrecked exist is the personal magnetism of Jesus and only he who has experienced it can believe what the love of Jesus is. You could more easily catch a hurricane in a shrimp net than you can understand the wild, relentless, passionate, uncompromising, pursuing the love of God made present in the manger. The shipwrecked preserve the meaning of Christmas in its pristine purity–the birthday of the Savior and the eruption of the messianic era into history.
by Brennan Manning
Think about it — no, meditate on it. It’s the Gospel in it’s mostly straight and simple form — so simple, in fact, that Evangelical Christendom usually misses it entirely. It’s not a cute little prequel to a morality tale — it’s the savage annihilation of any lie that told you that the God of the universe could ever do anything but love you. It’s the God of the universe laughing at the idea that you could ever do anything about what separated you from Him and the cosmically insane plan He hatched to make sure nothing in the universe could ever separate Him from His kids again.
If you’ve ever wondered if anyone out there wants you, you have your answer.