Christmas: Where rubber meets the road. Where God enters time and space. Where the kingdom of God intersects earth.
I watched the movie ‘The Nativity Story’ several nights ago, and I had a really interesting experience of having my mind’s construction of the incarnation disrupted. In the best way, I was taken aback and challenged with new visuals and different potential depictions of Jesus’ birth. Living inside the story the way the movie painted it yielded the tilling of years of a certain way my mind had related to it. And it made me think: Thank God for the incarnation, for a God who puts skin on to rescue us not only from death but from the trappings of our minds.
One of the beautiful elements of Christianity is the embodiment of faith: God creates the earth and dwells with His people. God humbles himself and takes on a body - that we might know Him specifically and intimately as a Person. And God lives in His people through the Holy Spirit. Mankind isn’t left with an abstract, disembodied spirit or philosophy to theorize about; they are offered beauty, hope, meaning, and salvation through a Man/God who broke into the timeline and lived a life connected to the history of years and years before him, and years and years to come. Whether anyone likes it or not, Jesus came, made super scandalous and important claims about Himself, and left a mark on history.
Youth ministry is a unique adventure of rubber meeting the road; information dissemination isn’t the primary purpose. We are not ministering to a herd of brains-on-sticks. Relationship is at the heart of the incarnation (which manifests God’s continued desire for reunion with His creation, mankind), and it is also best placed at the heart of youth ministry. There is an enormous amount of mystery involved in the incarnation, and I believe there is similar mystery in mind meeting mind, spirit meeting spirit, and body meeting body. How much is actually going on when you place your hand in someone else’s in meeting them, share a moment of eye contact, and offer a little bit of who you are even in sharing your name? It’s actually pretty intimate when we let it be, and it’s a moment of connection not unlike the way God encounters us (and we Him) through the incarnation. This continues through the telling of the Great Story in and through Scripture, through the living out of the Story in worship, and through the sharing of His Presence with one another through love.
Teenagers are in a unique, transitional phase of existence where they are growing and changing, and they are constantly formulating their understanding of relationship. To encounter one of them with the welcome of the incarnation, the pursing grace of Jesus, and the understanding forgiveness God offers each of us can be one of the most profound honors a youth minister gets to experience. I pray that each of you as youth ministers or volunteers are also experiencing that intentionality from someone else. It’s a particularly poignant picture of the Spirit’s continual playing out of the incarnation, and of our joining with Him in that.
It is just as important to tell and teach the Great Story of Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection as it is to read and hear it for ourselves, and to live it out in our lives and ministries. Blessings this Christmas as you continue on your journey with Incarnate Love who has pursued and is pursuing you to the utter most.