We Love to Be With the Ones We Love

17 11 2010

My sister-in-law emailed us the family itinerary recently. This wonderful family of three will be traveling here from San Jose for the Christmas holidays. Their plane will touch down on the 17th, they’ll rent a car, drive across the border into Canada and arrive to her hometown in time for the family festivities. Their son is just 4 months old and he gets to celebrate his first Christmas with us – woo-hoo!

Ever since Joseph and Mary packed their bags for Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus has caused people to hit the road. Interestingly, the Christmas trips we take have a lot in common with the maiden voyage of Jesus’ folks. We may not see shepherds in the middle of the night, but we have been known to bump into an in-law on the way to the kitchen. We don’t sleep in stables, but a living room full of sleeping-bagged nephews might smell like one. ‘Tis the season to be traveling! Nothing reveals the true character of family members like a long road trip.

Christmas Holiday travel isn’t easy – especially when you’re traveling with a baby. Then why do we do it? Why cram the trunks and endure the line-ups in the airport? I think you already know the answer: We love to be with the ones we love.

The five-year old that runs up the sidewalk into Grandpa’s arms. The cup of coffee with mom before the rest of the house awakes. Interlocking arms with your relatives around the dinner table. Pulling the Christmas crackers after dad gives thanks, and then having to wear those silly paper hats that come in a multitude of festive colours for the rest of the meal (maybe that’s just a Hagkull thing).

Why do we endure the hassle and the silly traditions? We love to be with the ones we love.

May I also remind you? So does God. How else would you explain what he did? Between us and a holy God was a great distance. He couldn’t stand it and so he did something about it. “Christ himself was like God in every way . . . but he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born to be a man and became like a servant” (Phil. 2:6,7). Why? Why did Jesus travel so far?

The God of the universe kicked against the wall of a womb, was born into the poverty of a peasant, and spent his first night in the feed trough of a cow. “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14).  The God of the universe left the glory of heaven and moved into our world. Who could have imagined he would do such a thing?

One of my favorite authors, Max Lucado tells a remarkable story of a love like this:

A man had been injured in a fire while attempting to save his parents from a burning house. He couldn’t get to them. They perished. His face was burned and disfigured. He mistakenly interpreted his pain as God’s punishment. The man wouldn’t let anyone see him – not even his wife.

She went to Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, for help. He told the woman, not to worry. “I can restore his face.” The wife was unenthused. Her husband had repeatedly refused any help. She knew he would again.

Then why her visit? “I want you to disfigure my face so that I can be like him. If I can share in his pain, then maybe he will let me back into his life.”

Dr. Maltz was shocked. He denied her request, but was so moved by this woman’s love that he went to speak with her husband. Knocking on the man’s bedroom door, he called loudly, “I’m a plastic surgeon, and I want you to know that I can restore your face.”

No response.

“Please come out. I want to talk to you.” Again, there was no answer.

Still speaking through the door, the Doctor told the man of his wife’s proposal. “She wants me to disfigure her face, to make her face look like yours in the hope that you will let her back into your life. That’s how much she loves you.” There was a brief moment of silence, and then, ever so slowly, the doorknob began to turn.

The way the woman felt for her husband is the way God feels about us. But He did more than make the offer. He took on our humanness and became like us. And when you look at the places he was willing to go – feed troughs, carpentry shops, cemeteries, and ultimately the cross – the places he went to reach us show how far he will go to love us.

He loves to be with the one He loves.

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