[Part 1, Chapter 7]
It all started with these eight words, “‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’”
This is the event that changed the course of history. God showed his hand. He chose to reveal his true heart and nature: favour-bringer. He became one of us. He became me, he became you, fully human. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
I find it rather disconcerting that anyone would want to become like me. I mean, I know my heart. I know what I’m really like underneath all the façade. Yet God came. He came and entered my mess. In fact, he came because of my mess. He brought favour into my mess.
The Message puts it this way, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14).
That encapsulates the incarnation, God becoming flesh. It also captures the whole mission and purpose of Jesus’ life. He came to connect, to rescue, to empower, to mobilise, to equip, and to send. How do you do that? You move in to where people are at.
This is God moving in, in to the mess.
A few years ago, I visited a mission among the poor in Cebu, a city in the Philippines. I was a board member of what is now known as One Foundation and was travelling with Steve Buck, the Chairman.
Among the One Foundation work we visited was a cemetery with all its Chinese tombs in varying states of disrepair. I was shocked to see families living in the tombs and on top of the vaults. We drove up and down the narrowest of alleyways for what seemed like an age, with rows and rows of squatter-filled crypts. “How is it possible to show Father’s favour to these people?” I asked myself. “How do you even begin to reach those who live here?”
How? You buy a tomb and move in. Like Jesus, you enter into the neighbourhood. That’s exactly what One Foundation has done through the Cebu Missionary Foundation. They rented a large tomb, now a beacon of hope in a world of despair. It is the presence of the living Christ to the whole person through the whole gospel bringing food for the body, understanding for the mind, peace and hope for the soul, faith and love for the heart.
On a wall in our kitchen is a stained and faded Christmas card that’s at least twenty years old. Such is the nature of the card that the stains and fading add to rather than detract from it. It’s made from plain, brown paper without any embellishment at all. The only words on the card are these: Jesus didn’t come wrapped in tinsel and glitter.
This angelic greeting to Mary was not only news that favour had moved into her life, but that favour is moving into our world. My world. Your world.
And it is here to stay.