This is the season of giving and I was the recipient of a highly treasured gift. It is a book. A book filled with word pictures and written with the purest love. In fact, it is a living book. And its author is the Author of Life. The Word was given to us twice. Once in an intricate, detailed picture book that is so elaborate and interwoven that it continues, even now, to be unfolding new layers and mysteries every day. And the Word also came to us as another gift, the gift being celebrated this season. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He became a living picture for us – and then gave Himself up for us.
God speaks to us in pictures. His Word is full of them. Because we have lost touch with the culture of Jesus' time and our Jewish heritage, we miss some of the richness of the story that He is telling in pictures. Let's open up the picture book for a minute.
The Bread of Life was born in a bakery. Bethlehem (Beth lechem) literally means house of bread. The Living Water came and was placed in a manger (water trough). God Himself dwelt, or literally, "tabernacled" with us, very likely on Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). And if that is true, could it be that the Light of the world was also conceived on the Feast of Lights? Accident? Coincidence? The Word became flesh, became a living picture, in part so that we might better understand.
When I think of the gift God gave us - His Son, the miracle of His birth, what else can we learn from the picture? God came from heaven. Full of glory, light, perfect in every way. To a sheep sty. Not a palace, a hospital, or even a home. But the most filthy place possible. No hay would have been there. Only decades, maybe even centuries worth of sheep dung. Could it be He wanted to draw the starkest contrast possible - to show in a picture the reality of what He was doing? He loved us enough to sacrifice it all. He was born under the shadow of the richest man in the world, while He came in stark poverty and vulnerability. Let your mind dwell, dare I say meditate, on the many other pictures that are layered within this story.
As I think toward this new year, my hope and faith are increased. My God has the tiniest detail worked out and He has a great plan. Whether blessing or tragedy may come this year, God is still in control. He is on His throne and His name will be glorified. May we give thanks for the gift of His Word, which comes to us in pictures, so that we might know Him more fully. And may He be glorified in my life and yours this coming year.