...we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~II Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
As I closed the book, my mind pondered what I had read. It was a novel, fiction, but I was touched by several ideas contained within those pages. One particular portion impacted me. A main character was talking of his mother's struggle with ALS and his father's care of her.
"My mother's almost completely paralyzed now. She can no longer speak or write. The only thing she can move is the forefinger of her right hand. At night she taps her finger against the bedpost when she hurts. My father wakes up and gives her her pain medicine. He hasn't slept through the night for years...He's given up everything for what he loves most. Her.
...I asked him how he did it, how he could give up so much for her. What he said taught me more about God and Jesus than a thousand sermons ever could...He said love is stronger than pain." (1)
"Love is stronger than pain." (1) There are layers and layers of meaning held within such an idea, such a truth. I'm sure I have barely scratched the surface in my understanding of these powerful words -- but one thing I can say for certain: When Jesus gave His life for the sins of humanity, He did so completely comprehending the beautiful supremacy of love over pain.
Because of His love for God, because of His love for us, Christ took upon Himself the pain of sin and the brief separation from His Father that such sin ensued. He had never known separation from His Father, but He was willing to go to that point of pain and lack that we might know sweet union and precious communion with God.
With Christ's death, the sting of death was removed, the potency of pain was neutralized; for all who believe on Him, death has been swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians 15:54)
Christ's love took Him to the deepest, greatest pain - separation from His Father. But His death ensured that such separation would never again be necessary, not only for Him, but for all who believe on Him. Once we are in Christ, nothing can separate us from God's love.
Because of Christ's great love for us, neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God... (Romans 8:38-39)
When Christ was born of a virgin, when God became man to dwell among men, this is the gift that He came to give. This is the true Gift of Christmas: birth that provided a sacrifice, death that enabled union, separation that eliminated separation.
In light of such a Gift, the suffering and pain of this life is put into perspective. Oh yes, I see why we are encouraged to not lose heart. Outwardly we are wasting away, but because of Christ's love, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our troubles truly are light and momentary in comparison to what we have been given and what this Gift is producing for us, in us. The struggles, losses, disappointments and frustrations of this life are temporary, but the Great Unseen -- what we can never be separated from -- is Eternal. (II Corinthians 4:16-18)
Shepherds, told of Jesus' birth by an angel, rushed to glimpse the God-babe. (Luke 2:8-20)
A star in the east compelled the Magi to come and see the God-child. (Matthew 2:1-12)
As they looked into the face of the Eternal, time and space clashed -- their eyes saw past the temporal, and they worshiped. They worshiped the Eternal.
What will we do with this Gift we have been given? Will we allow the eyes of our heart to see the wonders of the Eternal or will we hold to visions of the temporary? Will we worship the One who gave everything for what He loved most? He beckons us to follow His example and depend on His provision that we may see past the pain of this life.
Every day that we focus on the Eternal, every minute that we live for the Unseen, we celebrate the true Gift of Christmas -- and the Gift that can never be stolen, broken or destroyed, the Eternal Gift, reigns supreme in our hearts.
This Christmas -- and every day -- may our hearts and minds be captured with the Eternal,
(1) Evans, Richard Paul, The Sunflower.