This is the first year that I spent a good amount of time thinking about how a middle school student might perceive the Christmas story. I thought about their developmental postures and their squirrelly demeanor’s as I mulled over expressions of why God would come to earth in the form of a human son.
Here are some of the discoveries I’ve found so far.
Our high school pastor, Rick, offered up a story that he knew of by Paul Harvey “The Man and the Birds” that illustrated the “why” so very well. It’s a brilliant story that we can tell to students. I told the story two weeks ago to make our students laugh (as I exaggerated and made up extra parts) and to help them see, perhaps for the first time, that God wanted so very much to communicate with us in a way that we could understand, through a person our image mirrored, through someone we could trust both in his life and in his death.
Last week, I told a story about a $50 bill my husband used to get for Christmas every year. I used the bill as a prop throughout the message to talk about God’s gift of grace. Near the end, I offered the bill to a girl named Brenda. I asked her if she would like it. “Yeah, sure” was her wide-eyed response. Everyone sitting in her row thought it was fake. They took turns holding it up to the light. But it was very real and as that knowledge settled in on her, a sad look began to shadow her face. As I continued talking she kept shaking her head as if to say “I don’t want this” or “I don’t deserve this”. At the end of the service, Brenda and her hype-ed up (and jealous) friends came up to speak with me. She wanted to give the bill back. I told her it was a gift. No strings attached. Just like grace. It’s there for us to accept and respond to. One of the girls replied, “why Brenda!?!” and I replied to her…”why us?”
Then today, as I think about one last night with our students before Christmas I am arrested with a simple picture that Brennan Manning uses to describe grace. Grace came wrapped in our skin. What a price to pay, a price that could only be motivated by love. The love of Christ is the same always. Love came wrapped in our skin. Love was crucified in our skin. Love lives today and forever here in us if we will accept that gift.
So, the story I’ll tell this week (mainly to myself), will be about the greatest gift of all—the greatest gift in the history of forever—the gift that came wrapped in our skin. A human being is our gift. A gift who was very much God and very much ours, if we will look for him, if we will ask him in, if we will open up ourselves that the gift can arrive in our hearts.