“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
Last night some dear friends took Kristi and I to a Christmas concert with Michael W. Smith and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. We were so excited to hear our favorite musician sing! But out of about twenty songs he performed from the piano he sang in only three.
Much to my surprise that turned out to be the highlight of the evening.
As the night unfolded I was caught up in a heavenly concert. My body felt like a tuning fork, tingling with the delightful sounds coming from the orchestra and God himself. This was far more than a great concert — I was immersed in God’s presence. The heavens opened to me and I was captivated by the risen Christ as he showed me his kenosis fresh way (Philippians 2:1-11).
A Parable on the Incarnation
The Lord showed me the meaning of his incarnation in the way that Michael W. Smith set aside his gifted, world famous voice to bless other musicians. Instead of being the “idol” dancing to applause, Michael sat down at the piano and joined the orchestra in taking his cues from the conductor as together they performed the glorious instrumental pieces he had written. Furthermore, he brought with him a young, unknown band of siblings from Louisiana that he had discovered and mentored and he put them on stage to sing some of his songs, while he played the piano for them.
Michael was delighted simply to play the piano and watch God use the whole orchestra to minister to the audience. And he beamed with pride as the young band played their hearts out. As Michael faded into the background (passionately indifferent to success or applause) and the Lord Jesus (who he loves with passion) came into the foreground I sensed my Lord say to me, “Set aside your best gift for a better love.”
The Delightful Way of Jesus
Listen. Perhaps God will minister to your heart through the parable he gave me…
I set aside my glory in heaven with the Father to take on human flesh out of love for you. This is the way of my incarnation — it is the way I am. I stepped away from people and activity to pray. I held back many miracles to love my neighbor and make disciples. I refused to procure from Pilate my deliverance so I could go to the cross for you.
As the Psalmist says of me, “You stoop down to make me great.” This is the way I minister. I delight to raise up my disciples to do my work, even as the Father gave me his work to do. This is why I said, “You will do even greater works than I have done.”
I could have calmed the storm at sea before my disciples became panicked at the threat of drowning but I set aside my best gift for a better love. Not until the time was ripe did I calm the storm. Why? So that those with eyes to see could understand that with my help they too can learn to entrust their lives in the Father’s hands and be at peace in his arms of love even as a storm rages all around them.
When the religious leaders tried to discredit me by bringing before me a woman caught in the act of adultery I could have lectured them on the law of love but I set aside eloquent speaking for the better love of listening. I waited before the Father. I interceded for this woman and for all humanity trapped in sin. My love set her free! I bring freedom to all who cry out for my mercy.
Love. This is the humble, yet powerful way that my Father and I, along with the Holy Spirit, do our work. Love is the way of my kingdom. Why did we let Job suffer? Why did we let Mary and Joseph endure such shame and grief? Why didn’t we take away Paul’s thorn in the flesh? We set aside our great power to change circumstances for the better love of cultivating holiness.
Have you ever thought that Mary was a great cook? That I was blessed by the meals that she and Martha made for me? Mary set aside her best gift for the better love of sitting before me to listen. She has an adoring heart that ministers to me. Later she cooked for me and did so with affection for me and my words.
Or consider the Apostle Paul. You’ve read the book of Romans — as a book of persuasive logic about the way of faith in Christ it has no peer. Yet, throughout his ministry he set aside his best gift for a better love. Continually he engaged in conversations with people. He listened. He prayed. He served with his hands and his heart. He endured trials and persecutions, rejoicing in me and my kingdom and letting my love shine through him and bear witness to me.
In the same way you are to set aside your best gift for a better love. Don’t be too quick to share your insights — listen. Don’t worry about getting to do more with your gifts — rejoice to serve me in prayer and by quietly caring for the people in your circle of influence. Don’t try to standout in the spotlight — raise up other people to be all that I’ve created them to be. These are the things I do for you so why should they be difficult for you to do for others?
Take your seat in my orchestra and play your instrument with delight. Submit to me as your Conductor. Practice. Pray. Play. Don’t feel insignificant just because you don’t stand out to people — you stand out to me! Step away from a solo performance and rejoice to play in my symphony. Then watch as my music fills your soul and the souls of those around you.
Set aside your best gift for a better love.
“Be a Wildflower for God (You’re Not Inadequate)” tells another story of God surprising me with his still small voice and calling me to the beautiful life of passionate indifference to all things except knowing and sharing Christ.
These Devotionals and Prayer Cards for Advent will foster joyful appreciation of the coming of Christ Jesus! They are designed for personal devotions, small groups or holiday gatherings.