The Amazing Emmanuel! "Beginning with the End in Mind"

Psst! People are looking. 'Looking high. Looking low. Looking for someone, something, a super-hero. There's Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Transformers… even a hunky new Bond. James Bond. (I missed the n when I typed this; it came out "Bod". I wasn't far off.) Now there's a new TV show called Heroes. I'm told it's about ordinary people with extraordinary powers. If you've seen it maybe you'll tell me if it's worth a peek. Anyway, you and I live in a world on the lookout for heroes, super-souls making things come 'round right. Well, all this looking's likely in vain. We know what the ancient prophet Isaiah means when he yearns, "O that you [God] would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence…." Oh, but there is (surprise, surprise) a real-live hero, amazingly amazing, even now coming into the world. The Amazing Emmanuel! God with us! Jesus! Surely, all we church-folks know that. It's how and where to look that seems like such a stumper!

This year, don't look in all the usual places as Christmas draws near. Look for the Humblest Heart. Look for the One with the heaven-sent mission. I doubt that we get it. 'Ever have. The sheer gall of God! Imagine the nerve of the Almighty. He did not come to us a king. (Not our kind, anyway.) Nor was he rich, ever. He had no resume worthy of hire, except as a tradesman. Despite clearly attracting such attention, he seemed unwilling to claim any thing for himself. In an agonizingly complicated, cruel world, he was disarmingly simple and uncompromisingly kind. Kind enough that just to know him was/is to remember Isaiah's astonishing word's, "He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; [yet] he will faithfully bring forth justice." (Isa. 42) Look for the Humblest Heart. But also, for a man-on-a-mission. "I have come that you may have life, and have it in all its *fullness," he says. *Abundance, some hear him say. But he never means plenty. He always means unbrokenness, peace-in-the-soul, deeply connected to heaven and those around us. "I am the bread," he insists, "broken for you." "I am the cup, and I empty myself out. Why? Why, for you, all of you, for the sake of forgiving your sins. And not yours only, but for the sins of the whole world." What will you be looking for this Christmas? Won't you have a better chance of finding it if you begin with the end in mind? Not the stuff at the mall. Not the mischief at the office. Not the assemblies at school. (I confess I always loved them, as a student, as a parent.) Not the music all around, or the specials on the TV (even in high Def.) or on DVD. As profoundly as I treasure it, not even in the family or under the tree. No, in the end, what will satisfy us is only the Amazing Emmanuel, God With Us, the humblest heart on the most heaven-sent of missions. Jesus!

Begin with the end in mind. Be clear about what you're looking for. But go a little farther this year. That way, Christmas will become a calling, not just a holy day we've downsized to a holiday. Help somebody else find God-With-Us, Emmanuel, by becoming more like Christ yourself. Let the first two gifts you give this season be the first two gifts Christ gives: a truly humble heart and a heaven-sent mission to serve and save.

Everybody knows. Doctors diagnose the rhythm of your heart with an EKG. This Christmas that's coming, this Amazing Emmanuel who forms our souls and forgives our sins invites another test. Call it the HHG, the Humble Heart-o-Gram. You can hear how it's measured if you try. Hey, we can do it together. Take up your hymnal. Hold it with your hand below like so. Now just rock your knuckles with a little beat like this. (Heartbeat sound produced) Can you hear your "heart" saying, Not me, not me, not me; you first you first, you first; praise God, praise God, praise God." Friends anybody who can make that sound with the-heart-in-their-hand can do it from the heart in their breast. The Amazing Emmanuel! This time, God within us! You can do it. Me too.

Three things amaze about Jesus, Our Emmanuel, as we say and sing. First, he chooses. What's hard, hurts, or harrowing isn't thrust upon him. He selects it for love's sake, his mission's sake. Second, he excuses (himself)… he gets out of the way. He points up (gesture), not back at himself. Third, he uses… his mission to define his life, his death, his life beyond death. For Jesus, everything's about only one thing: God's kingdom. Nothing else: ever. All this shines through at the end. It needs to be foremost in our minds and hearts from the beginning. Otherwise, we'll never quite "get" Christmas. (It won't get us, either.) If we ever want to be like Jesus, then well, we'll need to be like Jesus. Amazingly, we can do it, because he will help us.

John Mooy (Russert, WoOF) tells a story that gets at the heart of this kind of discipleship. His father was all about delivering the Word. He was a Michigan mailman and more. His was humble and true. With a deep faith-mission, clearly understood. No matter the weather, or what was the matter, for years, Mooy Sr. was your man! When he retired, it took into the night to complete his route. 219 boxes, he said, and a story at every one. The blind lady with no mailbox. He hiked her mail to her. The girl with no money for stamps. She left buttons in the box. Mooy supplied her stamps from his own pocket. The merchant who'd leave cash (as much as $32K) in a paper bag, asking the mailman to take it to the bank! Mail boxes down, broken, gone, Mooy delivered. We get the picture. Not too long after retirement, Sr. died. John came back to Marcellus for the funeral. After, the old post master, dropped by. "I wonder what we'll do for Christmas this year", he mused at the oak table in the kitchen. John didn't get it. "John," said Mr. Townsend, "You remember those two poles on Main St.? 'Member they had a red box on one, green on the other, both marked, "Santa Claus, North Pole."(John once put his missives there.) "Well, John, 'turns out your dad and Santa had a little arrangement. Without anybody but them, me, [and Baby Jesus] knowin', every year for years, your dad's been answerin' all those letters for Santa. Each reply, personal, tender, knowing of every child and family."

Amazing, Emmanuel, God Within Us. Humble, with a heaven-sent mission. It can be our story too. The first two gifts you give this season, the first two gifts Christ gives! Don't you hope for an end like that for your story? If you do, try beginning with the end in mind and living that way every day. Superheroes? Maybe not. God gives us only one. We know his name. And we can be his messengers, 'deliver his Word. Just like Mr. Mooy. We just need our hearts and minds right, right from the start. Love so amazing, love so divine! [O come, Emmanuel! You the potter, we the clay!]

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