Updated: Dec 19, 2022
So don’t tell me.
If I’m the only one who ever stood in line for something to find, after awhile of wasted time, that I was not actually in line or else in some altogether wrong line, then I don’t want to hear about it.
Don’t tell me.
None of us like to wait in line. But to find out this was the wrong line, which is what happened to me down at the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles a while back on a busy day when I had no extra time to spare, is the pits. Or worse.
Come to think of it, that wasn’t my worst time of waiting in the wrong line.
Not even close.
My longest wait in a wrong line took me nearly 70 years. It involved waiting for the wrong Christ of Christmas. For a Christ who would come to die for my sins, so all I would need to do was, in effect, say “I’m sorry” and “I accept him as my personal Savior.” End of story. Merry Christmas! It was a long line, but entirely worth it.
I began to wonder. Had I been waiting all that time for Paul’s Christ? Paul liked to use the word “charis” (grace) to suggest the Christ had come to die for us and we were helpless except to believe. Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8 about our being saved by faith in God’s grace, and in 1st Corinthians 2:2 about his knowing nothing but Christ crucified awaited me at the end of that long and popular line.
Then I wondered some more.
What if Paul’s Christ who died “for” us by God’s grace was not the same as God’s own Christ?
What if God’s Christ, as revealed by the Gospels written after Paul’s time on earth, defined himself differently when noting that becoming “sozo” (saved) involved taking up our own cross and following Him (noting Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24)? What if it was no accident, nor even small linguistic tweak, that God’s Christ used the word “agape” (love) instead of “charis” (grace)? What if Christ was God’s way of entering into a new partnership or covenant where we must love others as Christ has loved us? What if the Christ of Christmas came to exchange gifts with us, not to just drop off a present for us? What if God’s Christ called us to be followers, not just believers?
Could I have been waiting in the wrong Christmas line for all those nearly 70 years?
Is it possible that I treated the words from Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 about God’s sending of a Savior whose name shall be called Immanuel / Emmanuel (“God with us”) as relating more to the Christ’s conception than to His preposition of “with” (rather than “for”) us?
Each of us has done things “for” others rather than “with” them before. And we’ve been on the receiving end, as well. We’ve been graced by someone who did a nice deed for us and left. And loved by someone who did something with us and stayed. Was one different from the other in any significant way?
Was there another line I should have been waiting in?
As a therapist in working with families where one member is suffering from Depression, I’ve often repeated these words: “if you want your loved one to get better, you will need to do as much as you can with him/her and as little as you can for him/her.” When it comes to being “saved” or healed from Depression, such a difference is profound.
So could the Christ of Christmas have come to earth not to do and to die for us but with us? Could that be God’s Christ? Where the waiting line is short instead of long? And where the gift is expected to be exchanged, not just received?
If so, then I was waiting in the wrong line all along.
The season we call Advent in preparation for Christmas is indeed about waiting for the Christ. Every year at this time, we who seek Him must get in line. Our instinct will always be to join the one already assembled. The long one. And wait. Assuming we’re in the right line.
My own delight, from childhood on, was to be in the receiving line. Anxious about the wait, but expecting something special for me to receive in the end.
Later in my adulthood I have learned to join the exchanging line. The line where, as in my baptism, I was privileged to die and rise “with” Christ, Emmanuel. The line where I receive my own cross to carry as I follow behind the One who comes always to partner and covenant with us throughout the new year and beyond.
I think I’m waiting in the right line now. Finally!
How about you?