I just love the Christmas story. Everything about it. The more I read it the more I see how brilliant and symbolic God is.
Sending his own son as a baby to this earth? It doesn't get more renegade than that. That's straight up bold. Inviting angels and people who lived in the fields with their animals to the same shindig? Clearly His love and Salvation are an all-skate.
But what stood out to me recently was something that happened a tad earlier.
Zack was a good man. A priest from a good family, with a wife from a good family. They'd been married for a long time and if you could retire from being a priest, he'd be getting toward that point.
His job required some travel to the temple when he was on duty, but he liked the work. Well, one day while He was on, as they cast lots to see who got to go in the temple and burn incense before the Lord. It was like being chosen to talk with the CEO about life on the front lines, only much cooler and with incense.
The lots rolled, and Zack's number came up. Sweet! There was no guarantee that would ever happen in his lifetime, but it just had. No doubt he was a little nervous. I mean, this is God. Talk about a career make-or-break scenario. So Zack gets up early, brushes his beard, puts on his nicest priest outfit and hat, and goes to the temple, hoping nobody else can see his heart pounding behind his robes.
When the time comes, he tries to play it cool as he enters the inner court. The thick curtain mutes the sound of singing and prayer from those in the courtyard. As his eyes adjust to the dimness, he takes a moment just to inhale. The rich, familiar scent of the incense is a boon and a weight. He's smelled this for years, wreathing the Holy of Holies, caught a whiff of the prayers of the saints and been reminded he worshiped a God who hears, even if He had been silent for a long time. Like, oh, five hundred years, including all of Zack's life.
But it was this God, this timeless God, who he now shuffled forward to honor by burning the incense. It was he, Zack, priest, father of none, who honored the Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob this day.
He bends to put his lamp flame to the incense, and out of the corner of his eyes, a flash.
He straightens, and suddenly, he's not alone. A golden man in cloud-white robes stands there.
Um, is this supposed to happen? Who is this guy and how did he get in here? But no, he's not...normal. He couldn't have come in behind me. He must have come from... Why has no one mentioned before that some man appears when you light the incense?
"Don't be afraid," the guys says, in a voice that Zack can feel in his bones. Like James Earl Jones, only bigger. Then he tells him that he'll have a son who will pave the way for the Christ.
Zack is no doubt blinking furiously and rubbing at his ears. It's all too much. Like that last part. A son? He'd prayed for a son for decades.
Every. Day. For. Years.
And his wife had none. He loved her anyway, and he'd even given that wound, that unmet desire over to God. He'd decided that God's people would be his children. He'd love on them. And now, a glowing dude pops up in the temple and says He's going to have a kid?
I might have asked about that too.
But the man doesn't respond by slapping his own forehead, and saying, "Oops, your Zechariah, I was supposed to talk to Pechariah. I'm sorry for the confusion."
No, he tilts his chin down, eyeballs Zack, and says, "For real? I'm an angel. Of God. I literally stand in His court every day."
Oh, right. The God Zack has served for a lifetime. The God who has promised to rescue his people. Who had given an heir to old folks before. That God.
But the angel isn't done. "And now, so you'll be certain, blammo." He didn't really say blammo, but that's probably what it sounded like when His words twined around Zack's vocal cords.
Well, darn. Now he can't talk, can't explain what he saw. It's a bit of a reprimand, but I bet it was also a blessing. When Zack woke up the next morning--when the hype had muted, and his roommate gave him the cynical eye--if he opened his mouth to say, "It might not have happened. I mean, I forgot to eat breakfast yesterday, so maybe I imagined it," the words wouldn't come. He couldnt' speak.
It was true.
He was about to be a dad! And his son would be weird, but Godly. He'd be an outsider on earth, but precious to heaven and to his own, old, parents.
I love that the lifelong priest didn't get it just right. I love that God didn't revoke his blessing or Zack's place in His will because of this. I love that when all hope seemed lost, God granted the desire of an old couple's heart.
It's all one more example of the kindness and love of a good God who rarely makes sense but always makes good. Thank you, my Lord, my love, for your vastness. Thank you for every drop of you I have seen, heard, felt, and known. And thank you for the many more to come. I long for you, to know you, to see you, and I can't wait for more. And thank you for your stunning grace. That even when I mess up, you are faithful and you won't retreat from me, you'll just grow me. All my life, all my soul, all my heart, all my love.