Once upon a time there was a very rich but unhappy king, unhappy because he was all alone in an empty palace. How he longed for a wife with whom he could share his life.
Then one day the king saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, riding through the streets. Enquiries revealed she was a peasant girl, but the kings heart was captivated. He would make sure that each day he rode past her house in the hope of catching a glimpse of his love.
But the king had a problem. How would he win her love. He could draw up a royal decree commanding her to become his queen. But then he could never be sure he had won her love, for she would be required to obey a royal decree.
Perhaps he could call on her and try to win her over, appear in all his regal glory and sweep her off her feet. But no, then he could never be sure whether she had married him only for his power and riches.
Finally he came upon the perfect plan. He would come to her as a peasant. That was the only way to truly win her love. So he abandoned his palace and his riches and his comfort and put on the clothes of a peasant. He went and lived among the peasants. He worked with them, shared their sufferings, danced at their feasts, until finally he won the heart of the woman who had captured his.
So it is with God. Christ became one of us, lived among us, worked among us, suffered with us, danced with us. All in order to win our hearts.
Source: A retelling of a story by Soren Kierkegaard.
If you ever find yourself standing on the sandbanks of a river after the tide has gone out you may have the opportunity to see soldier crabs. Soldier crabs look completely different to your run-of-the-mill river crab. Unlike most crabs which have a flat, oval shape, soldier crabs have a sky blue dome about the size of a 5 cent piece. Attached to the dome are long, spindly, cream coloured legs, which they use to lift their dome shaped body right off the sand.
But what gives soldier crabs their name is their tendency to march around in groups of tens and even hundreds. Often you’ll find them out of their holes in the sand, marching around in search of food, and with their close formation and blue shells, they look like an army. I assume this is how they got their name.
Now, if you do happen to see these soldier crabs and start walking over for a closer look you’ll discover something else about them. They have an amazing capacity to burrow down into the sand. In just moments they’ll be gone, leaving behind nothing but a little mound of sand which they have dug to create their burrow. And every time you get close this is what they’ll do. You’re too big, you overwhelm them, you could be a predator. In fact the only way you could get close to those soldier crabs would be to transform yourself into one of them.
This is a great image of how God has approached us. Should he approach us in his splendour and glory we would be overwhelmed, fearful, uncertain. So he chose to approach us in a way that made it easier for us. He became a human being – not a big, powerful and overwhelming human being, but an ordinary, everyday person – and lived among us.
Source: Scott Higgins.
Once upon a time there was a goldfish called Bogglehead. He gained his name from the fact that he was one of those awkward looking goldfish with enormous eyes that stuck out the side of his head. Bogglehead was owned by a little girl who used to make his life hell. Every day she’d come into the room, stick her hand in the fishbowl and start swirling the water round and round, creating a whirlpool. She laughed as she saw Bogglehead flailing helplessly in the current. But poor Bogglehead would end up feeling nauseated and giddy. Other times the little girl would try to catch Bogglehead, scoop him up in her hand and watch him flip fearfully, gasping for breath, as she held him aloft out of the water. Then at the last moment she’d drop him back in again.
One day Bogglehead was enjoying a moment’s peace from the little girl when he noticed something gleaming among the stones at the bottom of the fishbowl. He swam down to investigate and to his great surprise found a tiny brass lamp. He rubbed his nose against it and out popped a magic fish genie. “Greetings master. I am the genie of the lamp. I have the power to grant any wish you make.” As Bogglehead pondered what he might wish for he saw the nasty little girl come into the room. “I wish to be that little girl for a day” he blurted out. And with that, whoosh, the little girl became a goldfish and Bogglehead became the little girl.
“Aha!” thought Bogglehead as he towered over the fishbowl and saw the fear in the eyes of the little girl turned goldfish. “Now I can gain my revenge!” With that he placed his hand in the bowl and started to churn the water into a whirlpool. The little-girl-turned-goldfish started to be thrust around by the current, growing nauseas and dizzy. But after a moment Bogglehead cringed with shame and stopped. “I’m sorry” he said, “that’s not fair.” Instead Bogglehead stopped and played carefully and thoughtfully with the little-girl-turned-goldfish. After 24 hours he was returned to his life as a goldfish and the little girl became a little girl again.
But from that day on things were changed. The little girl no longer tormented Bogglehead, but cared for him. Bogglehead in turn came to enjoy visits from the little girl and to look forward to them.
Application 1: Incarnation, God’s love, God’s care. We often find ourselves in the situation of Bogglehead. God sometimes can appear like the monstrous little girl – uncaring, unthoughtful. What would he know about being a human, and the problems we struggle with? The Christian story however assures that God indeed knows what it’s like to be human, knows it from experience. For in Jesus Christ God came to us as a human being, experienced our world as a human, longed as a human, got hurt as a human, experienced hunger and injustice and rejection and pain as a human. Ours is a God who knows what it’s like to walk through life difficulties and so is able to walk with us through our difficulties.
Application 2: Relationships, conflict, perspective, communication. Bogglehead teaches us about the way to relate to others. Often all we do is see them from our own perspective – that person who hurt us or ignores us. But by trying to see things from their point of view we can be transformed.
Source: Scott Higgins
At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne.
Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly – not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.
‘Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?’ snapped a young Albanian. He removes his shirt to reveal a bullet scarred back. ‘ In Kosovo we endured terror… shootings… torture!’
In another group an aged aboriginal woman pulls a crumpled, tear stained photograph from her pocket. ‘What about this?’ she demanded, ‘This is my precious child. I have not seen her since the day she was stolen away for no crime but being black!’
In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes. ‘Why should I suffer’ she murmured, ‘It wasn’t my fault.’
Far out across the plain there were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he permitted in this world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that people had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth – as a man!
‘Let him be born into a hated race. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
‘At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die. Let him die so that there can be no doubt that he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.’
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled.
And when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No-one uttered another word. No-one moved. For suddenly all knew that God had already served his sentence.