Rough Roots, Beautiful Branches
A Complicated Christmas Story
It is virtually impossible to put into words just how colossal is our cosmos!
Proxima Centauri is the nearest known star to our sun, and resides a little more than four light-years away from our solar system, or, as the crow flies, 24 trillion miles. If we wanted to visit our closest neighbor star within the Milky Way Galaxy, and traveled by airplane, we’d arrive in 5 million years!
Or, try this: There are approximately 8 billion people on planet Earth. For each person, there are more than 250 galaxies in the observable universe. For each person, there are more than 125 trillion stars in the observable universe. (That’s 125 with twelve zeros after it! For each person on planet earth!) Finding our solar system amidst all these stars would be a little like finding one particular grain of sand in a sand pile the size of the United States piled 25 feet deep!
In the center of the Scriptures, the Psalmist writes: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1).
John, the Apostle, while exiled to the Isle of Patmos for his Christian convictions, was no doubt looking up into the heavens when he penned these words: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11).
Amid such celestial grandeur, we might find ourselves voicing the same question raised by King David: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3,4).
And yet, the Christmas Message heralded by the angels suggests that human beings matter quite a bit to God: “The angel said to [the shepherds], ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:10-14). Somehow, God was mindful of us, caring enough to become one of us!
In 1957, author J.B. Phillips wrote a short story entitled, The Angels’ Point of View. Here is a portion of the story:
The staggering consideration of Christmas is that God became a human and visited this dirty-tennis-ball-planet to walk amidst us creeping, crawling creatures. And what is just as mind-blowing and heart-expanding is that Jesus saw fit to enter into our time and space through a family tree complete with rough roots. Of Jesus’ family we might say, “It’s Complicated.”
A woman forced into an act of deception to secure the family line. A prostitute born amidst a pagan people with a soft place in her heart for God, who would risk her life in pursuit of God’s will. A young widow of questionable lineage who would accompany her mother-in-law, also a widow, to a land foreign to her, forgoing family familiarity and future prospects for the sake of service. A great king committing murder for the sake of adultery, then covering it up with a royal wedding. A teenage, unwed mother and a blue-collar stepfather. In the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, David, Bathsheba, Mary, Joseph, and others, well, you get the idea: Christmas is complicated!
And yet, from these rough roots in Jesus’ family tree, beautiful branches will grow. Jesus came 2000 years ago to offer love to the whole world and hope for all peoples. Through the redeeming work of the cross and the restorative work of the Resurrection, we are grafted into the beautiful branches of a family tree that continues to grow–to live amidst a people marked by a Spirit-filled life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-mastery.
From somewhere beyond a colossal cosmos, enters a God born into a human family with rough roots, intervening and then inviting all peoples and families to become the beautiful branches of the Family of God. Would you step into this great story with us this Advent Season?
* Thank you to the Scientist-Duo, Mark and Joanne Perra, for a beautiful spin through the cosmos. Our very own congregants wrote a compelling paper on the sheer size and scope of our universe and the glory of the God who spoke it into being.