Longing for Touch

December 7, 2010 § 2 Comments

William Blake’s beautiful poem, A Cradle Song, includes these magnificent words:

Sweet babe, in thy face
Holy image I can trace
Sweet babe, once like thee,
Thy maker lay and wept for me.

Wept for me, for thee, for all,
When he was an infant small
Thou his image ever see,
Heavenly face that smiles on thee.

This past Sunday I shared both this poem and the picture in this post with our church community. Each year we remind ourselves, as a congregation, that for all the joy we experience at Christmas, there is probably an equal amount of hurt and pain being felt by folks everywhere. In a fallen world holidays are not immune to sin and brokenness, in fact, quite the opposite. The sorrows we bear seem to be heaviest within us when others appear unscathed by the Fall (we sometimes tell ourselves that we’re the only ones).

Advent is longing – waiting for Jesus – waiting for Jesus to step into our brokenness. Maybe a better way of putting it is that in Advent we realize again and reflect on the reality that only Jesus can enter into our lives with healing and hope.

At the heart of the Christmas story is vulnerability. What more profoundly than a newborn would better symbolize the feelings of vulnerability that we experience when we are brought to grips with our true condition? How else but in the most helpless of human forms could the God of the Universe most identify with our weakness? The writer of Hebrews calls it ‘being made like his brothers’ (Read Hebrews 2:5-18 – You’ll be glad you did).

I have been in ministry for most of my life now, and I have learned something about people in pain: We don’t want answers. Answers are usually someone else’s way of avoiding the discomfort they feel when they encounter our pain. Answers are things. Answers don’t reach hearts. Answers are intended to be processed and proven out – they are aimed at heads. And besides, when others give us answers, we usually already know them, don’t we. Jesus never gave answers when He encountered the broken. If anything, He asked questions and His questions were always aimed at the heart.

No, it isn’t answers we need – we have answers. Somewhere, some time, in some book or at some lecture we heard the answers and we tucked them away. But what we really long for is to be touched. We want to be ‘reached.’ We long for an encounter with someone that loves us – someone that knows us and sees us as we are – someone who isn’t repulsed by how ugly our stories have sometimes played out in life. We want the answers we have gathered throughout our lives in Christ to be confirmed by Jesus Himself. We long for the touch of Christ. In fact, we desperately need it.

Advent is longing for, and celebrating that God became a little baby – It isn’t a small thing – We celebrate that Jesus has entered into our mess. He made Himself touchable in order to reach into the cavernous needs of a fallen world and to taste our deep sorrows – to share in our brokenness, our shame, and on the Cross, even in our guilt. And in this, His handprint is found all over the hearts and lives of those that are His.

Not only is this amazing, but it is indeed Good News.


§ 2 Responses to Longing for Touch

  • Linda Johnson Fuerst says:

    I never considered the idea that Jesus never gave answers, as you wrote, when He encountered the broken. It is so true that we already know the answer before others offer it.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughtful and thought provoking gift, Mike. I am so proud of you 🙂

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