Friday, December 17, 2010

Animals, A Pile Of Poo, And A Little Baby

We took a family trip to the zoo this week. Now, while I don't get too much out of it when the animals are laying around asleep, I don't think I ever get tired of watching them when they are active and moving about. My boys are much the same. If an animal is just lying around sleeping, they don't much care about standing around observing that. They are ready to move on to the next one. On the particular day we went we were able to watch the elephants chowing down and moving about, after watching them for a few minutes, one of my boys pointed to a pile of something on the ground and asked me, "Is that elephant poo poo?" I responded with an affirmative and the look on his face was priceless.

Now, while I enjoy visiting the zoo, the animal droppings and the smell they create I could do without. But, if you're gonna have animals, that comes with the territory. There's no way around it. Live animals equal poo and the stink that comes with it. That's just the way it is. As we made our way through all the animals at the zoo, the stink was everywhere. When we got to the chimpanzees, I'm convinced one of them was playing with poo and was wiping it all over the observation window. Yes, I know that's disgusting, but that's the kind of thing you see at the zoo.

If you've ever been to the zoo or visited a farm, you know exactly what I'm talking about here. There is just this odor in the air and images that you can't ever forget. Now, with that in mind, just think of the night our Savior was born. When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem that night, there was no place for them to sleep except a stable. A barn, if you will, complete with animals and all the stuff that accompanies them. There in the middle of the night, the King of all kings, was born. Right, there with all the animals and the stench of animal poo in the air, God's Son entered our world.

Have you ever wondered why there? God, who created this planet, chose a messy stable. He chose a stinky, dirty, barn to welcome His Son to the world. I'm thinking He could have chosen a much better place than this, but He didn't. A shelter for animals was His choice. So, there Mary gave birth and wrapped Him in rags and placed Him in a feeding trough. There among all the animals, God came to earth.

I'm pretty sure that on that night, if we would have been able to take a family trip by this stable, one of my boys would have pointed to a pile and asked me, "Dad, is that donkey poo poo?" I know we all have an idea of that night Jesus was born but lets get real. If we watched all this play out, we would have thought nothing special of the entire event. A man and his wife with no place to stay, bedding up for the night in a stable and giving birth right there. Which brings us back to why?

Why did the Creator choose this kind of place for His Son to be born? I can't help but think it paints a great picture of why He came. He came because of our mess. He came because this world was a messy place. He came because fixing our mess would require Him to get right in the middle of our mess. Yes, He was born in a messy place but His purpose would send Him on a journey that would prove to be even messier. And every second of every minute of the time He was here, was spent cleaning up the mess we ourselves had created.

This Christmas season, we'll see lights, and bright colors, and take part in festive events. We'll decorate our trees, and wrap our gifts in shiny paper. We'll display our attractive nativity sets in a place where all can see. And in the middle of it all, our challenge is to be careful not to lose sight of the night, God sent His Son to be born in a stinky, dirty, barn complete with animals and animal poo. Because, in that barn that night, with animal aroma in the air, God entered our world in order to rescue us. Yep, God was ok with becoming messy if it meant saving us. So, while there were many places that could have welcomed His arrival, I'm thinking God knew what He was doing when He picked a stable on the special night.

Friday, December 10, 2010

We Can Learn A Lot From A Place Called Narnia

Today marks the opening day of the latest movie in a series of movies based on C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia." I was able to catch a pre-release screening of "The Voyage of The Dawn Treader," and I have to admit in my opinion it is the best of the three movies so far. Though I think you would love the movie, I'm not attempting to make this BLOG an ad for the movie.

For those who haven't read the book, I'll try not to spoil the movie for you. But, there is a part in the story where the character Eustace becomes a dragon. Having given into his "flesh" if you will, he becomes something he hates. No matter how hard he tries, he can't fix himself. He can't rid himself of the thing that he has become. And, though he has friends and family who see him in this state, nobody can help him. Interesting enough, Eustace is a good dragon, but even being good, doesn't fix him.

Not sure if you've ever been there, but I'm thinking the story of Eustace is one that most of us can relate to. I'm thinking C.S. Lewis had a great handle on humanity and the struggle we face to fix ourselves when he penned this story. Its a struggle that dates all the way back to the beginning. In the garden of Eden, something tragic occurred that left us all fighting to get back to the place God designed us to be. Adam and his bride, tried to fix the situation with fig leaves and found that was about as effective as putting a bandaid on a severed artery. We don't use fig leaves today, but our attempts are just as futile. Just like Eustace, we try and we try, but every attempt is a complete failure. No matter what we do, we can't shed the dragon skin. We can't fix ourselves, and no loving friend or family member can fix us either.

I'm thinking Paul understood this when he wrote in Romans, "The things I don't want to do, those are the things I do. And the things I want to do, those are the things I don't do." Paul understood, C.S. Lewis understood, and believe me, our Creator understood better than anyone. He saw us in our hopeless estate, and knew that mankind had no hope in fixing himself. He and He alone could save us. The price for Him would be a hefty one, but somehow and someway He found us to be worth it. Our liberation would require nothing short of His sacrifice. His willingness to pay that price, indeed set us free from the dragon we had become. He removed the dragon skin, but more importantly, He changed our identity from the inside out. And though we may act like that dragon from time to time, it is no longer truly who we are.

I'm not sure where you find yourself on this journey, but Jesus came not simply to offer you a ticket to heaven someday. He came to liberate you here, and now. There is indeed a freedom that God designed all of us to live in, but apart from Him we can never obtain it. Jesus came to give you life! A life of freedom! A life worth living! If you find yourself like Eustace in Narnia, no longer able to recognize the being that you've become, and longing for the kind of life you know you were created for, there is hope for you. In Narnia, C.S. Lewis called Him, Aslan. His name in this world is Jesus. The prayer isn't some long and difficult religious one. Its one that simply comes from the heart of one who has come to the realization that they can't fix themselves on their own. It goes something like this, "Jesus, help me!"