As a church, we have been experiencing the Christmas story in our Face to Face series. We’ve looked at a variety of ways God meets us through the Incarnation. That Jesus came as a baby reminds us that God came to meet our brokenness, our shame, and even our fear.
I’d like to highlight two thoughts that have stayed with me during Advent:
“Shame is the belief that my brokenness makes me unworthy of connection or love.”
That’s Brene Brown’s definition of shame. She goes on to describe the ways many people deal with shame.
We can blame and manipulate people, making them feel small so we feel less unworthy (this actually makes us more unworthy in other’s eyes).
We can hide and pretend, building a wall so that no one would ever be able to know about our brokenness (this doesn’t work very well).
The only real way out of shame is to recognize that I am worthy of love EVEN in my brokenness. But how do I get there? It won’t happen by just thinking positively or getting a self-esteem boost. It won’t even come from a spouse or close friends and family. It has to come from a love that doesn’t waver, an acceptance that won’t shift in its standards. We have to experience a love that recognizes our brokenness and shortcomings, but remains strong and steadfast.
The Gospel gives us this kind of love. When Jesus died for your and my sins, he demonstrated his love for us. He demonstrated that not even the most vile and corrupt motivations, thoughts, and attitudes can keep us from him. He didn’t just sweep that stuff under the rug. He named it, displayed it, punished, and as a consequence forgave us in the death of Jesus on the cross.
Imagine that kind of love. Sacrificial. Powerful. Unfailing. It’s the declaration to the universe that we are loved even in our brokenness. It’s the ultimate shame-seizing act.
“The Incarnation is the answer to our fears – it is God proving that he is with us. He does not promise to change our circumstances, but he promises his presence with us in them.”
The word Emmanuel means “God with us.” The Christmas story is about our God who breaks in. He breaks into our world and our existence. He doesn’t stay in the heavens waiting for us to get our act together. He comes. He gets his hands dirty. He moves into the neighborhood.
And He saves the day. No matter how hard and uncertain the circumstances, God will not abandon us. He will not forsake us.
It’s changed the way I’m praying this Advent. Instead of just praying for a change in situation, I’m praying that God would make his presence known. I don’t even need to pray that God would “be with” someone. He’s already promised and demonstrated that He is. In light of that truth, I pray that I (and those I am praying for) would recognize God’s presence in real and comforting ways. Emmanuel all over again.
As we push on towards Christmas, let me encourage you that God is with us to conquer our shame and our fear. A little baby in a manger tells us that this God isn’t far off, but close by. I pray that you would meet him in unexpected ways…face to face.