Thinking this last week about beginnings. New beginnings, to be exact - how they not only refresh and encourage us, but also teach and guide us, when we'll let them.
Human beings had a beginning, of course, when God created that one person. Then human beings had another new beginning, when He split that one person into two different persons. Human beings, in fact, have had a huge number of new beginnings, and a good number of those are listed in the Bible, from Adam and Eve to the End Times.
But I'm thinking there was one new beginning that not only topped all those, but remains and will always be THE new beginning. And I'm talking, of course, about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth – the entry of God Himself into the world of human beings.
We don't know every detail about Jesus' beginning in the world. The ancient people just didn't count all the details we'd like to pour over as all that important, so they didn't record them. They gave us what was important to them – and, it turns out, even if they don't give us all the drama we might like, the details they did share about Jesus' new beginning turn out to be important to us, as well.
Consider, for example, the new beginning of Jesus' conception. There's lots of stuff for us there, but one huge detail is that God made sure Jesus wasn't conceived from any sexual act. The Bible gives us a number of reasons and outright hints as to why (and it wasn't because sex is automatically bad).
Like, thousands of years earlier, God promised Eve that He would fix what she was first to break by bringing about The Fixer of the World through her. Eve, human being that she was, had to be feeling like crap right about then, having just been confronted with the consequences of letting herself be convinced it was actually ok to do the exact opposite of the simple thing God have told them to do (a sin human beings – especially religious human beings, and both female and male – have been continuing to commit with great joy and self-congratulation ever since). What would your reaction be, knowing you just shattered all the goodness of creation - but at least God would let you help make up for and fix it later? That had to be a comfort – especially for all women later, when men started the lie that only evil could come from women. Women who knew the truth of Scripture could answer back, "Huh! You trying to say Jesus Christ is evil?"
Which brings up another related detail regarding why God didn't use sex to bring Jesus into the world. Can you imagine the ego rush that would have resulted if even one male – already convinced by his culture that he's better than females and children and animals and the natural world because he can dominate them – could tell everyone else that HE brought the Savior of the world into the world? God loves men as much as women, of course, and as part of Eve's punishment He did let men dominate women (until, that is, Jesus came and undid the curse-punishment of the Fall – something else oppressive male-worshiping theologies gloss right over). But God also obviously knew what kind of ego goes with the ability to dominate others, and He made sure that NO man could EVER boast that he had ANYthing to do with creating the Savior of the world. It was the only way to make sure God got the credit for saving us, but it also meant God gave #1 priority to being first-hand involved in a new beginning with all of us, and in a way that no human being (not even the ones dominating the others) could ever mess up.
And don't know about you, but the fact that God can punish us for totally screwing things up - and still trust and love us enough to invite us to be an active part of our solution - means there is no end of new beginnings for me, and you, and everyone else who'll just agree to let Him.
So, what about the new beginning of Jesus' birth? That's a new beginning story we get from the institutional-church every winter, so we might be tempted to run right over it when we get to that part of the Bible in our own study. But there are more new beginning details to be enjoyed here, as well – more joy even than we're usually offered by the "official" version.
For example, reading these stories did you catch that it was people (like the shepherds) looked down on by good-religious-people and people (like the magicians) banned from good-religious-people-spheres who not only got the message that the Son of God was here, but who also showed up to recognize and celebrate Him as God and spread the word to all their reject and outsider friends? And what were the "good religious people" doing right then? Well, they were either ignoring the whole event (even through they had all the scholarship and education that should have made them first in line to welcome Him), or they were plotting to kill Him and everyone who might be Him off so they could keep their worldly place (something good-religious-people still do today, but usually with more subtlety and fewer swords). Jesus Himself would later describe a grand party God has planned – that all those He'd originally invited snubbed Him over. Jesus, it seemed, had seen and heard all that before - and those of us who've become so grossed out by the human "church" can take great comfort in that.
It also, to me, says everything about whose plans are really important in this world:
- the human ones, where certain people are drawn "in" and certain people are kept "out" based on what doctrine (or anti-doctrine) they obsess on, and what social clique their outward person (looks, wealth, race, sexual orientation, etc) shows; or
- the Jesus ones, where hearts matter more than mouths, and where getting a new beginning depends not one bit of a whit on anything human or "religious".
- Tamar, a Hebrew woman who pretended to be a prostitute to trick her father-in-law into sleeping with her so she could gain a child,
- Rahab, a pagan prostitute who went over to God's side, and
- Ruth, a pagan woman so destitute she had to pick up leavings from other people's harvest fields.
There are many other new beginnings to see and understand, in these first stories and scriptures about Jesus coming into the world. When we'll let ourselves stop and sit with the scriptures for a time, they tell us buckets about who God is, what He wants us to understand about His values, and whose side He's on in this world.
They also offer us example upon example of how God truly is a God of endless new beginnings - certainly willing and able to make something good from whatever's bad in our lives, to open a new start where we find only dead end.
Does that mean we'll have no pain, no loss, no sorrow here, when we follow Him? Nope. But we see that even in the first stories of Jesus, as well. The gift we're given is not forever life in Brainless La-La Land, but a life lived as all God's people have lived: with goods and bads, ups and downs, all with the Holy Spirit forever at and on our side, until Jesus comes again with His angels to take us Home.
And that will be the final new beginning we've all been waiting for.
This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.