We are isolated, following the necessary orders to stay in our own spaces, confined in ways which chafe at our privilege to come and go as we please.
When Jesus took on the form of a human body, he did so fully accepting the limitations this would entail. He chose to become confined to movements of a physical body. The God who hovered over the surface of the deep in Genesis, who had ridden the clouds as a chariot, and who has unlimited power and freedom, gave it up to be one with us. As we sit in our homes, gazing longingly out the window, grieving all we have lost, it seems paltry in light of the kenosis – the emptying – of Jesus.
While rulers in Palestine at the time of Jesus’s coming clutched their power, the King-over-all was laying his down. He ushered in a new order, an upside-down kingdom. Instead of clinging to authority, he gave up all his advantages and rights as God in order to show us a new way.
We cannot even imagine the one who breathed life into the first human, gasping for breath at birth. As he did so, did Jesus remember watching as Adam took the first inhale? Or in his giving up, did he also relinquish this great storehouse of knowledge and memories?
How did it feel to go from painting the skies as the sun greets the morning, to learning how to write his name with stubby little boy fingers forming crude letters?
Jesus who existed outside of the restrictions of time, now confined to a small, uncoordinated body, having to grow within time’s slow rhythm. How hard must this have been for one who ruled over the distant galaxies, who created the platypus, and who stocked the oceans with myriad diverse and marvelous creatures.
Jesus relinquished his rights and privileges as God and chose to live as a human (while still remaining fully God). He lived within our human boundaries, choosing weakness and insignificance instead of his rights as King of Kings. “He is God-in-descent, God stepping into the context of humanity.” He willingly laid down all the things which separated him from us, and came to learn what it is to be us. He became the God who “moved into the neighborhood” as Eugene Peterson puts it.
These limitations became the very way Jesus was able to reconcile us to himself. It provided a way for him to know us fully. He could have come any way he wished, but he chose a body, much like our own. In doing so He gave great value to the human form. In a body, he could experience all of the sensations common to us. He did not remain distant from skinned knees, slivers, the stomach flu, the taste of salty sea air, and the feeling of sand between his toes. He felt it all. He also felt the pain of stakes driven through his wrists, and lungs gasping for breath. He gave his body for us. The motivation behind this is love. Jesus willingly embraced our restraints, gave up his power, to show us love.
We are angry and irritated with closing borders, limited flights, and mandatory quarantines. We are tired of wearing masks and remaining distant, and many of us will not be able to gather with our loved ones this Christmas. I wonder how much are we willing to relinquish our rights and freedoms out of love for another. Could we, as the people of Jesus, model the humility he showed when he gave up the treasures of heaven for us? Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me”. There are no half-hearted measures. The Kingdom of God is built by those who follow Jesus’s upside-down way. We will be the first to release our rights in order to protect another, to choose limitations so others’ lives can be spared. When we think we are being asked to give up too much, will we look to Jesus as our measure?
Instead of reacting out of our entitlement and frustration at how things are, we can choose to accept the confines of this season as a way forward. These restrictions can be tools in the hands of God as Jesus realigns us to his way. A season of refining, of stripping bare, so that we could live in complete dependence on the God who chose limitation for us.