We often think of Jesus putting on humanity—like a 33 year costume party—and then going back to exclusive divinity—retiring to Divinity Leisure World. Not so. He stays that way for eternity. God with us.
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent:
one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other –
things that are really of no consequence –
the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
from God in the Manger
This is a true story.
When I was a kid our pet parakeet died via multiple gunshot wounds. If you reread that last sentence while softly jangling sleigh bells, it will sound a tad more Christmassy. I should probably explain.
Growing up, my parents claimed to be allergic to all varieties of animals and their dander. It was the ultimate response to our plea for a pet, any pet. We would, but we’re allergic. Hence, no pets. Until Boyd.
A family down the street was trying to find a home for their parakeet. We didn’t ask why they wanted to get rid of him; we were too blinded by pet possibility. We begged. The parents faltered. The dander issue seemed mysteriously resolved. You have to clean the cage. We will! You have to pay for all the food. Ok, no problem! You have to pay for all vet bills. Sure!
In a stroke of parental weakness, Boyd came to live with us. His original name wasn’t even Boyd; we renamed him after a bird we saw in a Gary Larson cartoon. I think parakeets share the same curse as renaming maritime vessels. You shouldn’t do it. Boyd couldn’t even repeat all the inappropriate words my brothers and I whispered to him. Bummer. He just fought his nemesis in the little birdie cage mirror all day long.
A few months later our mom noticed a large growth on Boyd’s wing. We took him to the vet, a cancerous tumor. Prognosis: very bad. Double bummer. “I can’t do anything for him, but I’ll put him to sleep for $300 and give you the ashes,” the vet said. “Remember, you all have to pay for everything,” said mom. Triple bummer.
The siblings all made a rapid decision to take Boyd back home. We had a family meeting. Boyd quietly tapped against Dr. Evil Mirror-Me. It was decided. My older brother loaded his CO2 air pistol, gently placed Boyd in a brown paper bag, and went to the backyard. The rest of us stayed inside. We waited. No sounds, nothing. My brother came back inside with the bag still hopping. “I’m not shooting your stupid bird,” said my brother. To this day, that stands as irrefutable proof that my brother has a kind and beautiful heart.
“I’ll do it,” I said. I took the pistol and bag and headed outside. I pushed the safety out. I even pointed at the bag. But I didn’t shoot. I took him back in; family lore would have never forgiven me.
Our mom was disgusted. “Give me that,” she said. She took bagged-Boyd and the firearm and marched outside. Phfop, phfop, phfop, phfop, phfop, pfhop. My brothers and I noted that she emptied the cylinder. Go mom. We buried Boyd in a private ceremony under the fig tree.
Advent rolled around this year and made me think of Boyd. It’s probably the cage, fighting Mirror-Me, and that ugly tumor.
If you gave me the option to save Boyd by becoming a parakeet, taking the tumor, and entering into a brown paper bag for all parakeets everywhere with the guaranteed promise that I would come back to life (resurrected) and everybody lives happily ever after, I might do it. On a really good day, I might do it— especially with that guarantee. “Tim-with-us,” all the parakeets would chirp. But if you said, “Um, there’s a small catch: you have to stay a parakeet for eternity. You can’t go back to human-Tim.” I wouldn’t do it. No way. Not for a gazillion parakeets.
Jesus, Son of God, put on humanity, lived the life we couldn’t, bore our sin, and died a death he didn’t deserve. He was counted among the transgressors Isaiah 53 tells us. God with us. We often think of Jesus putting on humanity—like a 33 year costume party—and then going back to exclusive divinity—retiring to Divinity Leisure World. Not so. He stays that way for eternity. God with us. Not just then, but now. Confined and limited to humanity. Forever. For us, with us.
God-with-us means that Jesus never leaves his humanity, never scurries back to the safety of only god-ness. Jesus limits himself to humanity for eternity. Like a prison. Like our prison—the one we can’t escape. But then Someone breaks into our cage from the outside—and stays.
Replaces Mirror-Me with Himself. God with us.
If you reread those last few sentences it will make all those jangling sleigh bells sound more
Christmassy this year.
This is a true story.