December 6, 2011 Devotion Sharing (What Child is This?)

Submitted by Eunice K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the answer to the question posed in the second stanza of the hymn: “Why lies He in such mean estate?”  What does this say regarding the nature of God’s love?

The reason why Jesus came as a baby in such “mean estate” or lowly circumstances is to plead for sinners.  Stanza 3 goes on to say, Jesus, the King of kings, brings salvation.

The nature of God’s love is that He came to provide what we needed the most, salvation from sins.  And the way He came to do that was by stepping into our experience of powerlessness, vulnerability, lack of resources, and inadequacy in this kind of real way.  God’s love is not limited to pity or compassion shown to another, but he came to step into our shoes and be with us in the thick of our sins and the realities of this broken world.

In what ways have you experienced this kind of love from God and others? Who are the people you need to show this kind of love to?

I think this kind of love is so radical, it really takes a picture, a story like the Christmas story to really understand.  I realize that my default (and wrong) understanding of God and His love is always that He is a little removed and distant from me, and that His love needs to be earned on some level.  But when I think about the times when I really felt helpless and at a loss, when I had nothing I could bring to God to earn what I truly needed, I experienced God not as a distant and demanding figure, but a God who was graciously there with me.  Through His words and through His people, I experienced God grieving with me over my sins or over some of the biggest heartaches in my life, speaking to me in specific ways to give me encouragement, or lead me to repentance.  I experienced God working in the midst of fearful and disappointing circumstances, giving me reassurance of His presence and His love for me, and that He would not abandon me but continue to guide me.  He is not a God who keeps his hands clean and wants to just send some kindness my way–He is fully with me in my need.

I have experienced this kind of love from my leaders and friends, who did not settle for a polite and impersonal relationship, but who were willing to build a relationship in the context of my real sinfulness and character issues, and to walk with me through dark and discouraging times.  I have experienced people sticking it out with me and others and praying together for the long haul in the worst or deepest kinds of prayer requests, where there is no quick solution, but a long, extended struggle.   These kinds of relationships exemplify the kind of love from God illustrated in the Christmas story.

The people I need to show this kind of love to are all the people God has given me to love – my leaders, my friends, my husband and family, the staff and students God has placed in my life, and the many students yet unknown to us on our campus.  God asks me to share His love with these precious people He has given me, and it’s not a distant kind of “love” where I can keep my hands clean and keep things convenient.  It’s the same kind of love that I’ve experienced, of willingness to be with you through the good times and bad, of commitment to share the burdens and the joys, and to always push against the desire to draw lines of boundaries of how far I will care for this person.

From the second stanza of the hymn, why would sinners not respond to the “Word pleading?”  What has been my response to this pleading?   

I think sinners would not respond if they don’t see themselves as sinners, or if they don’t feel like God’s pleads are really something that addresses their need. Perhaps they don’t recognize yet their true brokenness and don’t think that they really need Jesus to save them from their sins.

As I grow older, I recognize more and more that God’s words are so true, that my greatest problem and need is my sin and brokenness.  I appreciate more, and I am more grateful for God’s love and his salvation as I continue to understand more about how this affects every part of my life.  Every day I am reminded of these truths through daily devotion and just the experience of daily life.  I’ve come to see how truly Jesus’ coming in order to save us from our sins is “good news of great joy” in my life.

Submitted by Ben K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the answer to the question posed in the second stanza of the hymn: “Why lies He in such mean estate?” 

The Jews had long anticipated the Messiah, but they believed the Messiah would be a political one, one that would rise up in power and lead them to be free from Roman rule.  But Jesus was not to be that kind of Messiah.  He came to plead with sinners and win the hearts of men so that they may love him and receive salvation.  Had he come in power and extravagant luxury we might follow him out of intimidation or awe, but we would not necessarily love him.  His coming as an infant born to peasants in a manger was so that he could identify with us and that we might follow and obey him out of love.

What does this say regarding the nature of God’s love?

God’s love is such that he wants us to return his love.  The lowly birth of Christ is part of a love story in which God is trying to woo us.  He goes out of his way to lower himself, giving up his privileges, rights, and comforts as the King of kings so that we might notice him and love him.

In what ways have you experienced this kind of love from God and others? Who are the people you need to show this kind of love to?

I’ve experienced this kind of love time and time again in my life from God through His people.  When I was a youth, my leaders at church gave up part of their weekend to hang out with me and teach me the bible.  I was an awkward shy kid and these adults had no good reason to sacrifice their time and energy to hang out with me had they not wanted to share God’s love with me.  In college I came to our church on Sunday of our move in day and I met some very nice people who immediately took me under their wing.  They had already graduated from college and were working professionals.  But instead of spending their weekends hanging out with their friends and traveling as most people do, they hung out with me.  Fridays and Saturdays, week after week.   It was through self-limitation and lowering of themselves that I understood that they loved me and took the Great Commission very seriously.  The way they lived their lives gave great weight to their faith and belief in God and caused me to take Christianity seriously and eventually I came to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior.  It’s been 10 years since I’ve been a freshmen and I find myself in the same position as the older guys who took care of me—a college graduate and a working professional.  Last year I moved to Riverside with my wife along with some of my college friends to minister to students at the UCR campus and God has entrusted me with a good group of freshmen guys that I’ve taken under my wing.  These are the guys that I need to show the kind of love God and others have shown me.

From the second stanza of the hymn, why would sinners not respond to the “Word pleading?”  What has been my response to this pleading?   

Sinners might not respond to the “Word pleading” because they are not interested in God’s love.  People who are convinced that they will find fulfillment, ultimate satisfaction, or love somewhere else in the world won’t look to God.  Though I’ve been a Christian for some time, there are still times when my career ambition causes me to look for acceptance and validation from the world.  Underlying this ambition is the belief that I will be satisfied and fulfilled when I am accepted by the world.  But the truth is, the world cannot fulfill the deepest longing of my heart to be loved and accepted unconditionally.  The world’s love is fickle and once I am unable to offer anything of value, I will lose value in the world’s eyes.  God’s love on the other hand is unconditional, and the “Word pleading” is the story of the King of kings being born in a manger to save me from my sins.  This reminds me that the unconditional love and acceptance I long for can be found in God only.

Submitted by Jammy Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the answer to the question posed in the second stanza of the hymn: “Why lies He in such mean estate?” 

The answer to this question, “Why lies He in such mean estate?” is that God wanted to show us and reveal to us that in searching for the answer and solution to life, it is not in the high and lofty places but in the poor and lowly places.   The answer to this question is also that God wanted to show us that it’s nothing we did in order to bring Christ in.  We did not entice or convince God with money and power, but God came willingly in human form through Mary and Joseph.  The mean estate is completely opposite of where we would find a king and yet this is where God chooses to come so that we would know that here is a king that we can relate to.

What does this say regarding the nature of God’s love?

God coming to dwell with us in the form of a baby, born in a manger, in the lowliest of places tells us that God’s love is not found in riches or power, but in humility and weakness.  God’s love comes to those who feel desperate, who have tasted and seen poverty, who have known hardship and difficulty in life.  The nature of God’s love is such that it is not found where money and power is, but God’s love is found where we are found to be helpless and where we cannot give anything back in return.  God’s love to mankind came through Mary and Joseph, a poor peasant couple.  It wasn’t with riches or power that God was convinced to come and share his love with us, but came on his own accord to come and identify with us.  I can imagine Mary and Joseph feeling so terrible that the place where they brought Jesus into the world was not in a nice home, where everything was well prepared, but it was in a manger, where animals feed out of.  As a parent, you do everything in your ability to bring this child into a safe environment.  But this was not the case for Mary and Joseph.  They were helpless and yet God was faithful and came through and provided for Mary and Joseph nevertheless and ushered in the promised savior, Jesus.

In what ways have you experienced this kind of love from God and others? Who are the people you need to show this kind of love to?

The one concrete way I’ve experienced this kind of love is through my salvation.  What did I do to deserve God’s love but only confess that I am a broken sinner?   God’s love was freely given to me and he gave it to me at no cost.  However the cost was on God, who sent his one and only son to earth to show us His love and in the end to sacrifice and atone for my sins through the cross.  I’ve also experienced this love through people.  In just thinking about my undergrad days, though in my mind, I thought I was decently behaved person, I know that I gave trouble to those around me, especially to my spiritual leaders, yet they endured and preserved with me, and they showed me unconditional love.  Why would they do that?  Why did I do to deserve that?  The answer: nothing.  This is the nature of God’s love.  It is unconditional and freely given.  This is the love that a father has for his child.  No matter how much trouble my daughter gets into, she is still beloved daughter.

When I think about all this kind of love that I’ve personally received I know that I need to show this same kind of love too.  When I think about people closest to me, I have to start with wife and show this kind of love where I have to die to myself and give myself freely and love her unconditionally.  Then there are the staff brothers here at Riverside.  We see each other so often and we are susceptible to annoying each other, but likewise my love for the other guys cannot be based upon whether they are on my “good side,” but my love for them comes because God has loved me unconditionally.  I also need to show this kind of love to the students that I minister to.  I can be the one link to God that they have and I need to represent God properly and exemplify the very same love that I received that God has shown me.

Submitted by Dora W. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

What is the answer to the question posed in the second stanza of the hymn: “Why lies He in such mean estate?” 

I think the only answer to this question that would make sense is love. This is the Son of God, after all…. You would think that He would come into the world in grandness and splendor; that he’d be welcomed by all in a huge celebration with all his needs met. We have these expectations when the people we know give births to babies. How much more should the Son of God be welcomed into the world? So the question “why” is really important. Why would the Son of God come into the world in such a quiet, humble, lowly way—born to a peasant couple, lying in a manger? It’s because of love that God would restrain and descend himself to make himself lowly, even by human standards. The picture that comes to my mind is how a grown up with get down on his knee to talk to a child face to face and uses a voice and plays games that he would never use or do with another adult. Why does the adult do this? It is because she loves the child. She wants the child to know that he is loved and understood. She wants the child to feel safe. I think this is why God came to us in this way—because he loved us. If he had come in this loud booming sort of way, I know that I would be running away in fear. But because he comes in such a humble way, He draws us closer to Him.

What does this say regarding the nature of God’s love?

I think for myself, in the ways that I relate with God, I see that I often have this broken view of God’s love: It’s a picture of God’s love being something that I need to earn and something that I could lose when I fail or sin. In this way of thinking I see that often I have this image of God of being someone who has standards for me to meet before I can be worthy of His love.

From this hymn, I see that God’s love is very different from what I often think it is. The nature of God’s love is very much like a child’s in the sense that a child gives all of his love to his parents unconditionally and unquestionably. He loves completely and in doing so his love is also very vulnerable. In this humble child-like way God comes to us.  He doesn’t scare or intimidate us, but instead invites us to draw closer to him. He doesn’t come into world, making demands. Instead, he takes the weaker position.

I also see that God is willing to descend this far to save humanity. God’s love is constantly sacrificing. Not only does he leave the glory and splendor of Heaven to enter into this broken world, but also by this world’s standards, he comes in one of the lowliest ways possible. This is what he was willing to go through just to come into this world. I see that from the very beginning, God has been sacrificing himself—pouring out all of himself in order to complete his mission of saving mankind.

I think another aspect of God’s love that I can learn from his birth is its greatness. God knew the extent of sin in this world and in each man’s heart. He knew how we were all far from him. And yet he willingly chooses to come into this world. The reality is that it didn’t have to be this way—Jesus didn’t have to come. But because God loves us THIS much, he did not leave us to our own destruction.

In what ways have you experienced this kind of love from God and others? Who are the people you need to show this kind of love to?

One way I experienced this is how I first came to this church. Back then my heart was far from God and I was living a life seeped in sin and self-destruction. However, the leaders I met here did not turn away from me but continued to love and care for me. Who was I to them? They had no connection to me. I was a broken sinner who had no intention of becoming Christian or developing relationships. And still, Eunice & Grace continued to meet with me, spent time with me, and tried to meet me where I was spiritually. They made no demands of me, and I really had nothing to offer them. In this way, I know that God used them and used many more of my leaders to show me the true nature of his love.

And I see this as I continue on this life journey with God. Especially being part of a church plant, I see all the more clearly all the ways I fail and fall short. But each time I face my brokenness, I see that God does not condemn me, but meets me where I am at and restores me. He reminds me of his love for me either through his word or his people.

I need to show this love to my students, as many of them are where I was when I first came to this church. Many of them don’t know what God’s love looks like and have their own broken ideas of God’s love. But I think the people I usually fail in showing this kind of love toward are those closest to me–my sisters, other staff members at Riverside, and my parent.  These are people that I often find myself being less willing to descend to love because I think of them as being at the same or greater level than me. I think of them as people who are going to be okay on their own. However just as I know that I go through struggles and low points throughout my own life, these are things that they too go through. And it is in these times that I need to be flexible with my own plans, to be sensitive to the needs of others, to respond to a friend in need even if they try to push me away, to make myself vulnerable to rejection in order to love someone or remind them of God’s love.

From the second stanza of the hymn, why would sinners not respond to the “Word pleading?”  What has been my response to this pleading?   

Sinners don’t respond for many reasons. The prevalent reason is pride. We are proud and do not want to admit that we have a big problem or that we need help with out problem of sin. I think another reason that is more common today than before is the issue of laziness. While we may be aware to the “word pleading” many of us are too lazy or distracted to respond. We quickly try to brush it off or immerse ourselves in something that will help us not to think about it. I think another reason is despairing. They hear the “word pleading” but just think that the sin is too big or too bad.

I think for myself, I can relate to all of these. My common respond to the pleading is to try to deal with my problems on my own. After years of doing this I know that every time I do this the sin or issue only gets worse and more people get hurt in the end. When that strategy fails, my other common response is to despair. However when I finally respond to the pleading of God’s word, though it is painful initially, it eventually gives way to freedom. And in these times I get frustrated with myself again—why can I not just respond in the beginning. I’d be able to save myself and others from so much pain and torment if only I’d respond more quickly.

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