Chapter 4 By Your Side

The snow is falling today.
Michigan on Christmas for the first time in my life,
and my wife woke me up with a sudden gasp and excited breath.
It’s coming down like waves of manna in that perfect heavy silence
that only snow fall brings, and I’m watching from the kitchen table.
Perfect December.
I just woke up and so I’m still a little groggy, but upon first glance of the
celestial downpour, my body catapulted from the bed like
I’m back in second grade, and before I knew it
I’m down the stairs, clothes on, and gazing out the window
at the great white wilderness and all its wonder.
Some things never change huh?

I’ve always loved to watch the snow fall.
From the first time I can remember to every time since,
there’s something so overwhelming in its peacefulness,
something completely mystical in the way the whole world can change in a moment.
In the cold, in the frozen stillness,
it’s like you can almost hear God whispering, “Behold, I make all things new.”
“Behold, I will wash you as white as snow.”
He doesn’t waste words either, does He?
And He knows that some things you have to see for yourself.
The death of winter can seem so impenetrable as weeks turn to months,
as sweaters turn to coats and mittens, as long and lazy afternoons turn to
shivering blackness until suddenly, and without warning,
you find yourself shimmering with life at the sight of heaven’s covering blanket.
The smell of ice and the sound of silence telling you that death will not win,
and though we’re not there yet, home is on its way.

And what better day to wake up to heaven coming to earth?
What better day than Christmas to hear his voice,
and be in awe of his movement toward us?
“God became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Like the snow from the sky,
He descended upon us in the dead of night, in the smell of stable and in the
muffled cries of a baby.  He fell from heaven, down to earth, and underneath the weight of
our shame, that He might one day, lift the burden of the law upon his broad shoulders
and clothe us in white.
We and the earth are now one.
We are new.  Clean.
One by one the snowflakes fall, and one by one I’m reminded that death
has now become something beautiful.  It has become the path to life.
Like snow to the ground, and like God to man,
“unless a seed falls to the ground it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears forth much fruit.”

And of course, that’s what I love about snow.
With every flake that falls, something new is made.
Something like grace.
Something like redemption.
Reminding me that things can always change,
and silently speaking beauty into every moment, even in the falling.

Isn’t that the great mystery of what Christ has done?
He has turned falling into finding.
He changed failing into forgiving.
He was clothed in sin, that He might cover us in perfection.
He gave Himself over to death, that He might give us life.
Snow covering muddy streets, His righteousness has covered us.

And so now what?
Well, by God’s grace, we stop living in fear.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
If you and I, like these driveways and sidewalks out the living room window have
been made white, then white we are.
Unlike Ralphie from “A Christmas Story,” we’re not waiting for our father to come
home and give us the beating of our life.  We’re not waiting for the bar of soap in our mouth,
because Christ drank it for us.  “By his stripes we are healed.”
Healed of fear, and the ever nagging feeling,
that we’re about to “get it,” for the things we’ve done.
Remember Randy whimpering under the sink?
“Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie!”  Well, no.  The Father filled Christ for Ralphie and for us.
We’ve been covered.  We’ve been forgiven.
The blessed God came down and covered us with Himself.
Death has been swallowed up in victory, and we get away scott free.
Fear is gone.  Hope has come.  The snow has fallen.

And I pray that this sinks in this Christmas.  I pray it sticks.
I know its not snowing everywhere.
In fact, this is my first time ever seeing snow fall on Christmas day,
but you get the analogy don’t you?
Hopefully you don’t have to see it fall for yourself to get what I’m saying.
If the snow of Christ’s blood has fallen on you, then you are new.  You are white.
Get back up!
Do you get that?
Get back up.  That’s all that He’s asking of you.
Be freed from your fear that judgement is just around the corner.
If you are in Christ, then fear is gone.  Judgement has already come,
and it wasn’t you who received it!
“He who knew no sin became sin for us,
that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)

But punishment is not the only thing that brings fear, is it?
Not at all huh?  Especially during the holidays.
How many of us woke up in fear this morning,
afraid we wouldn’t receive a “Suzie-talks-alot” or an iphone or an
“official red rider, carbine action two hundred shot range model air rifle?”
Probably even more than the fear of not being forgiven,
Christ has finally saved us from the tyranny of stuff.
That’s right.  The tyranny of stuff.  I know it’s not exactly poetical,
but I think it gets to the heart of the matter.
And after all, wherever your heart is, there your treasure is also.
And I’ve got to believe that only Christ is a treasure worth having.
Only Christ is a treasure that can free you from the fear of missing out on all other treasures.
Only Christ is life, and I’m pretty sure He’s got more to offer you and me than whatever we
unwrapped under our trees this morning.
I mean, hoping in any gift other than Him, only leads to more anxiety.
Its no wonder then that Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth
where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves
do not break in and steal.”
He came to give us peace, and since He is peace, then we can’t expect to have peace
if we don’t have Him right?  Only when we want Him who is peace will we have it.

And so I guess the question left to us this Christmas is simply this.
“Is Christ a means to an end or an end in Himself?”
In other words,
This Christmas, If you could get everything you ever wanted,
I’m talking, snow, family, maybe a 70’’ plasma screen,
if you could have no more pain and no more crying,
streets of gold, angels in the sky, or a castle on a cloud;
if you could go to heaven and receive relief from your guilt,
healing from your diseases, and safety from your enemies,
but you couldn’t have Christ, would you still have everything you ever wanted?
Would you be happy?

Because, I’ve got to be honest.
This Christmas, sitting by the fire in Michigan,
watching the snow fall and being reminded that I don’t have to earn grace,
the one thing i want this Christmas is to be home.
You can keep your music and gifts and all your movies, I just want home.
As I’ve gotten older, and as the years have gone by,
and as I’ve been disappointed year after year by
the very presents that I thought for sure would bring me happiness,
I’ve begun to realize that this world is not my home.
My life is hidden with Christ, He is my life, my righteousness,
and the very treasure that my heart is aching for.

So Merry Christmas everybody.
May Christ alone be your hope of forgiveness and the treasure of your heart.
May He make his face shine upon you, and his snow fall upon you.
May He give you peace.
May He give you Himself.