All that is left on this Eve is the crown

As I sat reading this morning while drinking diluted, doctored coffee, my eyes and mind went over and again to this Advent countdown with cutout cardstock in the center of the kitchen table.

My youngest and I have worked our way, day by day, cutting and sorting and displaying the individual steps.

I realize as I stare that all that is left on this Eve is the crown. It is the final piece and with it we are to crown Him King.

Each of the steps has walked us through the reality of that mind-boggling event.

The baby is in the manger.

The shepherds have been stunned.

Joseph and Mary have both borne shunning but now become something more. They are now bearing Grace, Relief, Comfort not yet fully known.

Wise men have perceived and studied and journeyed.

Jealous rulers have raged.

The angels have declared, proclaimed and worshiped.

The Innkeeper gave the only small space remaining.

We are down to this final piece, here on the table.

That crown.

That crown and the question of what we do next.

As I rejoice in a home that is literally warm on a cold winter morning and was filled with laughter into late night hours, I am thankful.

I am thankful for a 23-year-old who would choose to be home with siblings and enjoy silly times with third graders and teenage girl sisters and a best friend brother.

There is a part of me that still feels broken.

The breaking part comes when I think of unrest, unwelcome, cold, desolate ones who aren’t experiencing these same grace-filled moments. Strangers on borders looking for a home, mobs in stores emptying shelves, those fighting and tearing one another down, death and disease—there is desperation all around. 

I think of brokenness and it lurks within my own heart. It is all because we have enthroned self, not Savior. The crown is still looking for its rightful place.

My own heart has chosen self.

I think of this Christmas Eve, the Eve of all eves.

I recall original Eve and there it is again, original sin. It is the choice handed down, born in time and throughout the ages. Choosing self even in the midst of beauty and wonder. 

We chose that one other thing we didn’t have, hadn’t tasted. 

Not unlike today, there is one more think I didn’t have, I haven’t tasted and thus the tree in my living room is stacked high with gifts. Like a tree in a garden bearing fruit that was not intended that way. 

I stop and thank God on this Eve that He has more than restored what was wrought in that Eve.

This King arrived in humility and arrived to give all that He had. His very life yielded up willingly that I can sit safe, rescued and reassured that this is not for naught.

He has overturned the selfish choice by demonstrating that selfless love. 

He entered the mess and made the way.

So that cutout crown lies in the middle of my table and the last step is my choice. 

What to do now with this God King, humbly cut out, cut up, raised up on a tree. 

I look to Mary and Joseph in that quiet moment on a silent night and find rest in the grace of the One who came to save.

This Eve I rejoice for the King who came to save and gladly give up the crown.

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vigorous resistance

Killing me is hard.

Long, busy days flow over into time reserved for community and grace. I grow tired and angry and resist the opportunities to meet with others to show love, to be loved.

Without exception, doing battle with me is treacherous. It always seems most dangerous and inevitable after periods of peace and calm before the Lord. Seemingly out of nowhere the self wells in rebellion. That this follows such precious moments feels counterintuitive and yet perhaps that is the root, the logical initiation of the cycle: Growing up and in knowledge of this good and gracious King will only bring about change. We cannot help but be changed by time spent in His presence.

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful,” Flannery O’Connor poignantly observed.

I know (head knowledge know) that Psalm 22, He has done it! He has accomplished His ultimate saving purpose and it is my day-to-day dealing with, well, me that undermines that knowledge. It is that painful change.

My daughter and my husband like to catch snakes. I have seen it many times. It most often involves a long stick or pole for pinning the animal’s head to the ground so they can carefully move in to grasp it and avoid a bite.

My sin nature that lies beneath looks a lot like that writhing snake body resisting capture, resisting being held, resisting being beheld. I am liable to bite. As a redeemed creation, how can that be? Perhaps because if I am fully seen, fully known, there is no hiding the ugly, slithering side of self.

Paul says something along those lines in 1 Corinthians 13. We have dim, not fully developed view of ourselves. Seeing Him face to face will reveal full knowledge. And “then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

I am already fully known despite my resistance, my lack of ability to trust His all-knowing love, His grace. I am already beheld and He has not turned away. And there that verse is smack in the middle of yes, love. It is the love chapter that soars with descriptions that most certainly look unattainable. Does any one really love without envy or arrogance or irritability or resentfulness? Does anyone really endure all things?

I do not.

This forces me to that dim mirror and to the killing of self. The hard and painful ache of change.

Reading through that entire chapter, I find joy in verse 9. “For we know in part and prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”

WHEN THE PERFECT COMES.

I could stop there and look fully, contentedly.

The answer is yes. It has to be. Yes, someone really loves without envy or arrogance or irritability or resentfulness. Someone has endured it all. That would be Him—the Perfect.

He has come and in His coming there was a treacherous battle. It was on a cross and the writhing, slithering snake of self was destroyed.

It wasn’t me that was killed. It was Him.

This makes my painful change not so painful anymore.

It makes learning to be beheld possible. It makes my resistance futile.

I am able to move back to peace and calm before God. I am able to behold Him who is perfect love. I am able to trust His gaze and the change it brings.