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Joyeux Noel

Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:6-8 NLT

I was reminded recently that Noel means birth. So in French, the literal translation is not our common American greeting of Merry Christmas or even the more generic Happy Holidays, or the really sterile, Seasons Greetings, but Joyous Birth! And that is truly what we are celebrating the joyous birth of our Savior! I am marveling more than ever that Jesus came as a human baby. What wondrous love is this! And to take on our flesh, and to be limited voluntarily to the constraints of the human body is rather amazing. And the equally astounding truth that he is fully God.

Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to have a small role in a play at the community college I have been attending the last few years. As I prepared for the role, I memorized lines, I learned where I was suppose to be on stage and I interacted with the other actors. Most people will comment on how hard it must be to memorize the lines, but in reality that is only one part of the whole. To really “become” the character, it is helpful to think about their characteristics, the time period they lived in, and many other aspects of their person. I really had fun analyzing my character by reading the script, noting what other characters said about her in the script, and how these lines indicated what kind of personality she might have. I did some research into the place where the character lived (Yonkers, NY) and also the time period (early 1940s just as the US joined WWII).

I created a life for the character outside of the script. I imagined who her friends might be, where she worked, what happened to her fiance that her mother had scared away so many years earlier. The other actors were also committed to adding this level of interest to their characters making the whole production a richer experience for each of us, as well as the audience. Once we rehearsed, and got our costumes and I had done all this mental work, it was time to bring our characters alive on stage for a live audience. I realized that in a sense I was offering the character my physical body, and my mind and emotions for the time she was on stage helping to tell the story of the Kurnitz family.

As I was enjoying the discoveries of creating a character, I also was understanding in a deeper way the incarnation of Christ, as well as the admontion to “put on Christ” as believers. First, it just amazes me that Jesus would be willing to live within the limitations of the flesh. He knew how to do it best because he designed the human body, soul and mind. He lived out the completely submissive life that we fight against day in and day out. He knew the subtext of the script because he wrote it with the Father and the Holy Spirit. So much to ponder on that topic.

How we are encouraged to live out the character of Christ through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit took on a whole new perspective in light of my recent experience of preparing to “be” the character of “Gert” this past fall. Just as I analyzed everything I could about her from several perspectives and sources, I can meditate on the character of Christ, and then offer myself to him to live out on the live stage of life the actual attributes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control because Jesus already has lived them and has given us so many examples of how to live these realities in our own lives.

More than one can fathom, and we have a lifetime to learn our role, and live it out empowered by the Spirit of Christ. Hallelujah!

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