There is something that I sometimes forget. There is something that I wish everyone knew. There is something that is so simple and yet so profound that I have a sense that if I really believed it and lived like I did, everything would be different.
What is it?
A little phrase in a Christmas Carol captures it: God is pleased with us in flesh to dwell.*
We all need to be told and to know that God loves us but do you know that God is also pleased with you? God likes you. Love is grand and to a certain degree beyond definition. But to be pleased with someone — that is something more within our grasp. I know when someone likes me.
Isn’t that what we want our children to know? As they get older they begin to take it for granted that we love them. They still want to hear it but It doesn’t have the same effect when tell them how wonderful they are. They have a sense that we have to love them because they are our children. But when we can convey that we are pleased with them and that we delight in them — that we like them — it enriches and solidifies our love.
There is a wonderful passage in the gospels that tells us what happened when Jesus was baptized. The heavens opened and the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove and a voice came from heaven saying. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk 1:9-11)
This is how God feels about Jesus and this is how he feels about all his children. As one of the most famous passages of scripture says: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son”. The apostle John tells us , “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”(1Jn 3:1)
Even before Jesus came, we learn of God’s great love and care for us. The prophet Isaiah conveys God’s great love for us. He tells us that God says, “I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you…For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious in my sight and I love you.” (Isa 43:1-4) Isaiah goes on to tell us the great lengths to which God will go to be with his people.
The meaning of Christmas, of Jesus coming to dwell with us, is very personal. God knows us by name, loves us and comes to save us. He does not come to us because we are good. Good is subjective. Our understanding of what is good changes and varies by perspective. Your understanding of what is good may look different in your 20s than in you 70s. Good here may be different from good on the other side of the world or the other side of the political divide. However you want to define it, Jesus says, “No one is good, except God alone.” Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The wonder of it all is that God knows us and loves us anyway.
He welcomes us as his children. The prophet Zephaniah says, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you, in his love…he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph 3:17)
God shows his love for us through Moses. God is so patient with him, repeatedly telling him that he has found favor in God’s sight — that he is pleased with him. At one point, Moses asks for God’s help and reassurance. He wants to see God. God says, “I will do the very thing you have said because I am pleased with you.” (Ex 33:17)
There is something more we can learn from Moses. He wanted to be with God. This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, in the midst of all the activities of this time of year, don’t forget to seek a silent night. Remember to look to God, knowing he pleased with you. As God is singing songs of delight for you, join the psalmist and do the same for him:
“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song is fitting… the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Ps 147:1, 11)
See what great love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.
* Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Charles Wesley