I am cutting out flannel board figures today and pulling out my Jesus Storybook Bible. I am choosing simple carols that repeat….a lot. Like Angels We Have Heard on High (Glo-ooooo-ooooo-oooooo-ria) and Go Tell It on a Mountain.
And Jingle Bells. That’s a carol, right?
Today, I head into a sanctuary of preschoolers to present a Christmas program for them and I want to cut through all that they hear about Christmas—Santa and reindeer and cookies and presents and colorful lights and an elf with a crazy nightlife.
I want to get one message out loud and clear, though, through all that noise:
I know preschoolers. I’ve had my fair share. Just last year, my own four-year-old quizzed me all season long:
She asked me: Why?
Why was the serpent bad in that garden?
Why did Eve give the fruit to Adam, too?
Why did God choose Mary to be Jesus’ mom?
Why did the people shout to kill Jesus when He didn’t do anything wrong?
Why did they slam that crown of thorns down on Jesus’ head and why did they lash His back again and again and again?
Why did He die on that wooden cross?
Why did the women put burial spices on His body and why did they wrap Jesus in those cloths?
Why did Jesus walk on out of that grave?
I tried to break it all down, this Gospel, and explain it in a way she could understand.
I tried to keep it simple.
But I stumbled and tripped, and got tangled up in complicated explanations.
Start, stop, start over. That’s how it went.
In the minivan, at the dinner table, as we turned the pages of her children’s Bible, as she held my hand and walked out the door, she asked. “Why.”
Over and over we walk through the Gospel, letting it sink down deep into her heart and mind.
We adults tend to complicate this Good News, fumbling to unwrap the beautiful simplicity with our overgrown paws.
Wasn’t that part of the trouble for the Pharisees, too? They piled on laws, rules, legalism and judgment, tripping people up with their obstacle-ridden path to redemption. They took something simple and made it so difficult.In the same way, we can tangle the Christmas story in details and asides, but God unravels the mess and says it clear:
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18
In the Women of Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs writes, “He summarized the main characters and their plight in a single sentence.”
That’s what we need. We need our God to free us from complicated explanations and tricky religious routines.
Because when salvation gets complicated, we lose sight of grace. It becomes about us instead of all about Him.
What a mess we are on our own. Paul tells us:
Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. (Titus 3:3 NLT).
That’s what we are without God.
Paul writes that one three-letter word of hope and freedom for all of us chained to sin.
But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7 NLT)
We bring mess.
He brings mercy.
It’s as simple as that.
All of those “Why’s” preschoolers ask and all of the “why’s” I ask myself when life seems complicated and confusing find their answer here: “because of his mercy.”
And Christmas, oh how we can tangle it right up with confusion and busyness, but here is the clear and simple truth:
It was at Christmas that God gave us a Savior we didn’t deserve and a sacrifice we didn’t merit.
Why did God send a Savior?
Why did He come as a baby?
Why did He take that crown of thorns, endure that lashing of the whip, die there on that cross?
Why did He walk out of that tomb, alive anew?
Because of His mercy.
Yes, because of His grace.
Originally published 12/17/2014