John 1:14 The Message (MSG)
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
Some years ago, my wife and I received a tour of a new orphanage that had been built, and was about to be officially opened in Indonesia. The foundation that ran the orphanage was moving it from an old facility that did the job, but had regular power outages, leaking roofs and poor security (Security is a prerequisite when pimps come looking for the children to put them out on the street to work). The new place was glistening with large white tiles, sparkling fittings, an expansive dining and kitchen areas, trampolines, swings and even a full-size soccer goal on the manicured back lawn. It was surrounded by two and a half metre walls and grand entry gates. It made our 4-star hotel look pretty ordinary.
We heard the vision of the founders, a vision that didn’t just want to provide accommodation but wanted to invest in the future teachers, doctors and leaders of their community and country. It was inspiring, and yet I couldn’t get past the cost and effort of it all.
We had a connection to the foundation (the orphanage was just one of their many amazing functions) and I knew the founders personally, so felt that I could ask the question that was nagging me most; “Isn’t there a simpler way to build an orphanage? It’s beautiful and functional, but couldn’t the money have been used in other ways?”
Our host stopped walking, looked at me with a smile, then shrugged her shoulders. She took a deep breath then said, “Our society refers to orphans as trash. So an orphanage is seen as a trash can where all the trash is kept, but never really seen. If this place is just put together cheaply with scraps, that enforces that trash understanding to the kids who will live here. But if we do it with excellence and put everything we can into it, then they know that they are valuable; not trash, but treasure, that is loved immeasurably.”
Those words hit me like a sledgehammer.
They were reinforced when we met a few of the kids and they proudly showed us their new rooms, complete with fresh bunks beds. Out of everything in the orphanage, they wanted to show us their two-storey beds because most of these kids had never even slept on a mattress, let alone a spring coiled bed. They were being told that they were worth something. That they mattered. That they were loved. That they were not forgotten.
I reflected on this moment this week as I read the Christmas story again as part of my Advent devotion. It struck me that God could have chosen any multitude of plans to restore and redeem the world. All of the ones I can come up with seem a lot easier than taking on flesh and blood as a middle eastern Jew, born to an unmarried virgin, in a manger and soon becoming a refugee. But that was just the beginning of the plan; this flesh and blood would go on to become a well-known teacher and prophet who ate with the drunkards and sinners. This Messiah, this Savior, spent most of his time amongst the ‘trash’ of society. His radical words and actions would ultimately cause him to become an outcast himself. He would eventually give his life so that we could know how much ours is worth. That’s a lot of work for God.
So I ask, “Isn’t there a simpler way to save the world. It’s beautiful and functional, but couldn’t salvation have been done in cheaper ways?”
Yes, probably. But what would that say about my worth to God if the cheapest or simplest option was taken?
Strangely, I think of Jesus like I think of that orphanage. A place of refuge that isn’t just a roof over my head but is abundantly more than I could have imagined or asked for. It had to happen this way to show me what true love, ‘Agape’ love, looks like. God entered our mess. Perfection set up camp here amongst the chaos and invites us all in to see our awesome bunk beds because… We are worth it!
It doesn’t mean everything automatically becomes perfect. It doesn’t mean that the Chaos in our world subsides automatically. But it does mean that God is not done with it yet. God is willing to pay a big price to let the world know its worth.
And you, You’re not trash. The Church of Jesus Christ is not the trash can where we are hidden away from the world. God’s message to you (the orphan) this Christmas, is that you are loved as his child beyond comprehension. Jesus came, in part, to show what true love (Agape) looks like. What greater gift could we give our world, then giving the same gift that we have received? Love Unconditional. Agape Love.
Grace & Peace,