Summary: Christmas is the heralding of God who comes to be with us. God is the one who pursues. The incarnation is the revelation of God’s immense love for humanity.
Any of you who like to watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition might have seen a show that aired last fall about the Keefer family in Pennsylvania. One of the Keefer sons, Brian, had a tumbling accident one week before his 21st birthday back in 2008, and he is now paralyzed from the neck down. Now, the reason I remember that particular episode is because Brian’s oldest brother, Adam, was one of my best friends in seminary. I could tell you all sorts of wonderful things about Adam, who died back in April, but I want to share with you the story of Brian and his dad, Steve. As you can imagine, when Brian broke his neck four years ago, his life was turned upside down. Before the accident, Brian was an active young man who loved playing volleyball with his brothers. He had just finished his sophomore year of college, majoring in health and physical education. After his accident, Brian could not even hold his own head up. He was not able to go back to school that fall. He couldn’t even take a shower by himself. Through the persistent work of his mother, Brian started bi-annual therapy at one of the best facilities in the U.S., therapy that continues to this day. Everyday, his parents would get him out of bed with a special lift, they would help him bathe and dress, they would feed him, and transport him to doctors’ appointments and therapy sessions.
But here’s where it really gets amazing. One year after Brian’s accident, his dad, Steve, retired early from his job. And in the fall of 2009, Steve accompanied Brian as he returned to college to complete his degree. A student lounge at the school was converted into a special room for Brian and his Dad to share. Brian changed his major to recreation management, and Steve accompanied Brian to all of his classes and helped him with all his work. Steve basically became a college student again, transporting Brian to and from gatherings with friends and special college activities. He continued the necessary work of bathing and feeding Brian, and he worked diligently to make sure Brian was never too hot or too cold, because Brian’s injury prevented his body from regulating his temperature appropriately. Nearly everything that Brian did, his Dad was at his side to make sure it happened; every class, every paper, every therapy session, Steve was right there. And he still is. This month, Brian, Steve, and Dawn (Brian’s Mom) will be moving temporarily to Oklahoma, where Brian will be working as the assistant coach for the U.S. Paralympic Volleyball team. It’s Brian’s first job, and as you can now see, it would not have been possible without the incredible sacrifices made by both of his parents; sacrifice borne out of love.
It’s pretty amazing isn’t it? To think of all that Steve and Dawn have given up in order that their son might live a normal life and even one day walk again. As much as Brian’s life changed the day of that accident so did theirs. And yet, it was what they did; there was never any question in their minds as to the “right” thing to do. They love their son, and they want the best for him. And if such love is possible on the human level, just think of Divine love, the love that God has for all of his creation, for each and every one of us. It would be nearly impossible to even fathom such love, except for something amazing that happened on that first Christmas so long ago.
God loves us so much and he wants a relationship with each and every one of us. In fact, God wants that relationship so much that he “became flesh and made his home among us.” We might not understand the magnitude of this sacrifice, but it is truly incredible. A father helping his paralyzed son gives us just a glimpse of what God does when he takes on human flesh and comes to live among us. And that is at the root of what Christmas is all about. The incarnation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son.”
I think it’s really difficult for us to grasp the expansiveness of God’s love for each of us. We don’t really have a comparable love in our relationships here on earth, and the ones that we do have, we so often take for granted. Do we truly appreciate the parents who love us so much they are willing to change the course of their lives for our well-being? Are we ourselves willing to drop everything for a friend in need because of our love for them? And do we truly believe that we are loved by our family, or do we sometimes question even that? I’m not saying that there aren’t bad relationships out there, but what I am saying is that too often, we take the good relationships for granted, not really appreciating the love that binds us together through thick and thin. It’s no wonder, then, that we so easily overlook and underestimate the desire God has to be in relationship with each of us because of his great love!