"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel around himself" (John 13:3-5).
It seems so crazy to hold this passage close to my heart right now. We are in the middle of the Advent season, when we look with anticipation to the arrival of Baby Jesus, born in a manger, and here I am, my heart full of a story of Jesus washing His disciples' feet. But the wonder of it all is that Jesus has stepped into life with us. He steps into our joy and celebration. He also steps unflinchingly into our deepest anguish. And He washes our lives with His mercy.
I hold this passage close because joy and anguish are both at home in my heart. I continue to think about the family across town hurting beyond words. And then I look into the faces of my boys, rambunctious as they are, and see within them Light that makes me smile. Jesus is in all of it.
When He removed His robe that night, taking dirty, calloused feet in hand, He was telling us His story. Not so much in words, but through the humble act of cleansing away the grime and the grit ordinary living, all those things we can't help stepping in because we are human. During Advent and Christmas, we relish the beginnings of this Holy story.
We love the wonder of the Nativity. We sing glorious songs about it. We easily invite strangers into it's joy. Yet it is in this celebrated birth that Jesus has left so much of His Glory behind, coming to us in vulnerable flesh, a human form that will be vulnerable for every bit of His earthly existence. And He does not get to slip back into His unsearchable majesty until He goes back home to His Father in Heaven. We hardly ever grasp what He left behind to come and be with us. But He willingly, joyfully, emptied Himself of everything which could not fit into human flesh, simply so that He could be with us and do for us what only God as man can do. He humbled Himself to dwell with us. He is with us in it all.
"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness" (Philippians 2:5-7).
I want to say I am so in love with Him. What I most need to say is that He is so in love with us. He is crazy in love with us, not withholding anything of Himself, joining us in this life with all of its twists and turns, hopes and heartaches. He comes near to us, nearer than our next breath. He holds us close to His own heart. He breathes His Life into us. And through His death He opens up the way for us to draw close to the Father. He gives us the gift of Himself, laying down His glory to join us in our home. And then He gives us the gift of Eternity, laying down his life on the cross, opening up the way for us to join Him in His home.
"And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8).
I love the incarnation, this flesh-dwelling miracle of Love. Jesus coming to us in all of our good, bad, and ugly. What is so amazing is that even though He is glorious beyond what we can comprehend or imagine, He makes Himself completely accessible to us. Because He chooses the most humble surroundings as the signature of His authenticity, I know I can invite Him into my humiliation and failures. Because He chooses to make misfits His most cherished companions and disciples, I know He desires my company too. The way He chooses to be present with us, no matter who we are or what we have done, fills me up; His choosing to come close fills my aching heart with hope. He joins us where we are, filling our humble lives with Himself. And by laying down His life on our behalf He raises us up to where He is. This is why God honors Him.
I am walking through this Advent season a little bit amazed. The hard things come. I feel the burden of difficulty in my heart as I pray for others. Yet I am finding that the difficulty of life makes the audacity of His choice to be with us that much more astonishing. The difficulty cannot dismiss Him; the difficulty draws Him."Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
Would you care to walk about amazed some too? Can you stand to think of Jesus walking through your ordinary day, especially drawing close in the hard moments? Holding you up in uncertainty? Smiling with you in your joy? Guiding you with unseen Hands, but with a very engaged Heart? He is here. He is with us. And He promises we will never walk through anything alone.