In the sweat and grime of one contraction bursting upon another, I concentrated on a child yet unknown, but one already knit with my own heart. Birth in that moment was all about bringing into a hospital room a living breathing little being. The focus was laser pointed on a baby, and nothing else mattered. When our baby arrived, wrinkled, blue and silent, we held our breath.
“Is he ok?” I remember my husband asking.
Those few seconds until the first gasp is life changing. Because once the miracle happens, suddenly every parent is aware of the enormity of the breath of life.
And then he cried, that sheep bleating tremor of a new born.
“He’s just fine,” the doctor assured.
From the first quivering breath with those little stick arms outstretched, oxygen fills our lungs and we breath. Until we don’t. Every parent is both elated and scared to death by that awareness.
When Mary birthed Jesus in rude surroundings where animals were kept, dirty, uncomfortable and poor, she must have felt much of the same urgency but with so much more at stake.
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 KJV
Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth starts in the temple with Zechariah the priest and ends in the temple with Jesus’ disciples. Like all of Scripture, within its vast panorama there are astounding bookends, like parenthetical boundaries, which tie things together with great marvelous bow strings.
The temple, so central to the spiritual life of God’s people was the place they met with God, where forgiveness of sins was sought, where hope was renewed. Confused and thirsty souls connected with God there. Worship and praise soared within its walls.
There was no room in the inn and so Jesus breathed His first breath in an earthy stall. His first bed was a feeding trough. Throughout His life on earth, few recognized a King who worked as a carpenter and found friends with fishermen and shepherds. Yet, they were surprised at how at home He was in the temple.
I wonder in this season if Jesus is at home in the temple of our hearts, if His breath is filling our spiritual lungs or if we’re running on Christmas fumes.
Luke’s joyous bookmarks could hardly be more opposite and yet so alike.
Is Jesus is at home in the temple of our hearts? Is His breath filling our spiritual lungs or are we running on Christmas fumes?
A glimpse of heaven’s glory spilling into the dark skies ends with a glorified Jesus ascending through the air into heaven. (Luke 24)
Christmas, a glorious mystery of Immanuel, God With Us, blends life with death. Jesus took His first baby gulp of air for the distinct purpose of a rasping final on the cross. Jesus’ physical breath paved the way for our spiritual breath. One inhale and exhale brought first life, its ceasing paid our debt of sin, its rise and fall in resurrection brings us life.
Perhaps the reality is greater this year because of those we’ve lost. The pages of our stories in the last two years may include painful good-byes. Mine do. Perhaps the need to reconcile again life with death can be aided by the sweet story we know so well.
How is your heart? Is there room for Him?
New life begins when God takes up residence in the inn of our hearts.
The Merry part of Christmas is He came so that He might remain. When sadness and grief cloud my heart, God With Us prevails. May we be struck again by the marvel of the tiny chest rising and falling.
“…and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:20 KJV
There is a first breath and there is a final. And there is the absolute knowledge that between the bookends, in that parenthesis we call life, there is not a stray day outside of His presence.