Saturday, December 26, 2009

Unwrapping Ecstasy ...

Tis the season one more time! Oh I know the purists out there realize this is not the actual date of birth of Jesus Christ, in point of fact this date has clearly pagan origins. And I know the politically correct crowd would wish me a Happy Holidays rather than a Merry Christmas, after all I may celebrate Hanukah or Cuanza as well. And still the militant Christians are careful to remind me that the only reason for the season is still Jesus. But this year, none of that matters, I finally unwrapped ecstasy and my world may never be the same.

I often wonder where the custom of exchanging gifts came from as it is tied to the celebration of the Birth of Christ. Maybe in honor of the greatest gift ever given to the world, we make a pitiful attempt of our own to commemorate it? Or perhaps since Jesus is no longer available in the flesh to us, we give gifts to each other in His place? But if this is so, then perhaps we should not give to those we know, but to those in need – that would seem to be more Christian than the current practice. Nonetheless, it cannot take away from the present I was given this year. Ecstasy wrapped in a rather plain wrapper, a no frills packaging, I guess you could call it.

The present was not even kept under our tree this year. Strangely it was kept in the bathroom, my bathroom to be precise. Strange place for a gift I imagine; particularly since I do tend to be spending more and more time in there these days as I get older. The wrapping paper was red and black, with gold trim, but there was no bow to speak of. And no really clear tag of who it was from, it seems as though several folks who care about me got together on this gift and each made their own contribution.

Most guys I know would love a HUGE flat screen TV in full 1080p high definition, with a surround sound BluRay player to go with it. My gift was better than that. Other folks I know would love a new computer with dual quad processors and 20 terabytes of hard disk storage running a 64 bit OS. My gift contained more capability, more speed, and is more reliable than that. Some guys I know would settle for something ornate to wear on their wrists, a new Rolex or Omega perhaps with rose colored gold bracelet, and a meteorite face place. My gift is more accurate than that, and worth far more.

When you think about all the things you have collected and received in your life, you can conjure up some fond memories. But most of the things in your life tend to get old, fade, and ultimately lose their value. I’ll grant you it takes much longer for a watch to lose utility than a new computer, but the truism still holds. The relationships you have in your life can be much longer lasting, and more rewarding, but they too are impacted by the effects of evil and self interest. Some relationships expire due to these two inexorably bound concepts; so even memories of people and of your interactions are sometimes limited in scope and length.

There is however a gift that can last a lifetime and more. It comes like everything else of an infinite nature from the source of all infinite gifts. Beyond the gift of Salvation, which is our only road home; beyond the gift of our Savior’s birth, which was the miracle that began the enactment of our Salvation is a gift of truth in a world of half-lies, darkness, deception, and despair. The present I unwrapped was packaged in my Bible, it’s now faded red cover, gold trim, and black ink reached out and took hold of my heart. A common text, a common memory verse every child learns, a billboard held up at NFL football games by a clown in a brightly colored wig – John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son …”

So many new truths jumped out at me from this old text of scripture. First, was WHO God loved. It says God loved the “world”; NOT God loved those who professed faith in Him. God does not love ONLY those who say they love Him, He loved every single life on planet earth, every single human who has ever lived regardless of their status in the faith. The world is God’s enemy and yet God follows His own advice and truly loves His enemy. The world takes from God without so much as a thank you. And God’s response was to give it more and more, and finally everything in the form of His Son.

I cannot even begin to imagine, WHY God loves the world. It is certainly NOT because the world deserves His love. We have done nothing to earn love, rather we have done much to earn punishment and contempt. We are known for our hatred of each other, more than our generosity. We do little to honor our example of love and much to destroy it completely. So the question of WHY God loves His enemy must be answered only in the definition of love itself. Perhaps as a parent loves a child because they are biologically connected. Even when the child has mis-behaved, or like in our case, has contracted a fatal debilitating disease that impairs judgment and inflicts pain on everyone around. Maybe only in this was can we begin to comprehend WHY.

Regardless of WHY remains the FACT that God does love us. Love that holds nothing back. Love that defines happiness. Love that is eternal. We have been looking through blinded eyes, at blurry images, with distorted sound for so so long. Our vision is worse that our old TV’s not even the black and whites were this badly deformed. But for so long the devil has made us think that God had nothing good to offer us; and sin and evil were the fun things, the cool things, the only things were having. He was putting poop on our plates and calling it caviar. And like idiots we were eating it by the handful. But when our vision is corrected, when we open our eyes for the first time without our disease impacting our sight, the truth becomes clear.

We have relied on the wisdom of men, and on our technological prowess, substituting the simple wisdom of God, for the complex situational ethics of evil. We hope for Google to have our answers, and our hard drives to have the capacity to store them. But the simplest of people, the lowest of IQ’s is able to grasp the simple concept in action of love. It is God’s love for us His enemy that can boggle the mind, and make meaningless our technical accomplishments. We need no answers beyond a love that would give us EVERYTHING. We need no search engine to define the meaning of sacrifice that would offer us EVERYTHING and demand in exchange nothing. God offers us complete release from our pain, and our evil, as nothing more than a gift.

This truth is ecstasy. It cannot be taken away. It cannot be changed. It cannot dull over the years but in fact only gain in strength over the years. It’s meaning and its definition only continue to become clearer and more in focus as we experience the transformational love of our Savior. To realize that God only ever wishes to offer us ecstasy on a level we are hardly ready to experience; there is nothing more under my tree that can move me like this. There is nothing under heaven as important or meaningful to me as this. Truth is worth more than any lie ever told. It is worth more than the entirety of man’s ‘wisdom’. It is not just a matter of faith to me, but a matter of fact to me. For I can see no other transformational power in all the universe, that is at work in the lives of men to redeem them from the pain they are diseased with, than that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Happy birthday to our God [belated as it may be] and thank YOU for a gift of sheer ecstasy that continues to warm my very soul.

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