My father-in-law returned from a harvest-stint at the edge of the Wheatbelt for one of his progeny this week. His role description would have read something like ‘aged farmhand and general dog’s body’.
When he wasn’t sweating in his khaki Gilligan’s Island-style floppy hat, or having his vocab recalibrated with a few choice words, or burrowing under farm machinery with the stealth of an over-qualified yoga instructor, he was at the family’s mercy for more menial tasks. The sort that easily fall through the cracks around harvest time. While he fulfilled his job description, his wife faithfully laid food on the table each night, morning and midday, ensuring that the dust barely settled on the home as the chaff swirled outside. A power couple that one – you can often only stand in awe.
Amidst three weeks of generous labour, David was asked to turn a box of metal into a Christmas bike – another of those tasks that no one has a moment for at harvest time.
Transforming the box into a bike would require a wrench. When none of the right size was found at the inn, he went further afield. In a town which barely busts 200 on Saturday sports day, every house is open and every shed available for communal consumption.
As he opened the nearest shed door and spotted a wrench that fit the bill, something else caught his eye.
In the dirt, covered by years, lay a long neglected, fat book. He brushed back the dust to reveal a Bible.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
’till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
His line to me on the retell was something like: “I wondered where the triumphant King Jesus was in these parts. There He was, covered over by years of dust”.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
For many, dust covers over life each year with December 25 a passing moment to consider the neglected Word relegated to the back shed. The Word who put on skin to be with us. Flesh in the dust.
Perhaps it’s a moment to reminisce a childhood memory of rolled up towels, shepherds crooks, paper crowns, farm animals, big stars, and a baby in a manger. That sure sounds like a fanciful flannelgraph that’s quickly discarded.
But Word made flesh? That’s heavy. Sometimes too heavy to pick up at all.
The eternal Word, active in creation, life-giving in restorative justice, instrumental in atonement, originating in joy, and peace perfecting, comes not in triumphant dominance, but in divinity-laid-aside humility. Amidst the dust.
A fully-fledged tyrant king was the currency of the day (seemingly ours too), yet Jesus is born way off Broadway in Bethlehem, in the back of the house. A bite-sized piece of God whose body would be broken to take away the sin of the world.
The same Word that stood before all creation speaks into our chaos and dysfunction with the battle cries of the Kingdom: Peace on earth! Joy to the world! Love to all!
Not the weapons you’d expect to demobilise spiritual and physical tyrants, but treasures easily lost among our frail graspings at self-styled pleasure nonetheless.
Where’s the triumphant King Jesus this Christmas? Not waiting to be dusted off, but waiting to be King. With us. Waiting to make all things new.
The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood so that we could receive Him.
The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood so that the Word could become flesh in us. So that we would become a Word-directed flesh that gathers those at the margins, embraces those who deem themselves at the centre (along with those at the left, the right, and the upside-down), and unites them to hear, heed and make the call: “Shake off the dust, and follow with me as I follow the triumphant King”.
Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns, let men their songs employ.