The cataclysmic events of Bethlehem that night speak thousands of messages into a person’s heart and millions into the generations that form the cultures of our world. One such message is centered around the clear and unmistakable intentions of God.
If we were, in any manner confused about the heart of God toward His wayward creation, Mary and Joseph and the child and the stable and the shepherds and the star and the farm animals join in a symphony that clears up any confusion about those intentions.
When we view the lives of other people, we tend to observe their actions, their habits, and their smiles. We see their outside trappings – their skin, their dimples, their eyes. We try not to stare over dinner when they talk with food in their mouth, as if they believe their food can find a temporary home in the side of their cheek while the conversation continues (my wife and daughters might proclaim me the king of such a belief). We see the way people respond in stressful situations, and how they look down and to the right when they get their feelings hurt and aren’t really quite sure what to say next, if anything at all.
And while we can easily observe a person’s actions, we get into trouble when we try to attach those actions to an intention that we identify. And unless we honestly believe the best in people, we tend to jump quickly onto one or more onramps that land us onto a very negative interstate. Let’s face it – a person’s actions are easy to identify, but the intentions behind those actions are not.
THE ACTIONS OF A PERSON ARE EASY TO IDENTIFY, BUT THE INTENTIONS BEHIND THOSE ACTIONS ARE NOT.
And the problem with me is that I regularly claim to know the intentions for another’s actions, as if I can actually read another’s heart. And if you’re honest, you might be a lot like me. We claim to know why a person acts like they do, why they experience anxiety when an authority figure is disappointed with them, or why they react a certain way during the conflict escalation phase of a relational argument that will blow up into a long night spent in separate bedrooms.
And we all know that we’re guessing when we do that, whether we admit it or not. The very best truth we may lay claim to is to propose an “educated” guess – perhaps based on the reality of living with a person for a long time, or by observing them act and react a certain way over and over again. But to be sure, even that is an educated guess.
This is a dangerous climb we make, you and me – when we claim to know a person’s intentions, I mean. And the slippery slope on the other side may lead to relational or professional disaster.
But not when it comes to God. And that’s because God has revealed His intentions to us over and over again.
We may wonder what His purpose is during a particularly difficult and lonely health or financial or relational season, and we can never be certain if God will ever give us any fully-explained and clearly-communicated reason for those things, at least on this side of Forever. But there’s one thing we can be absolutely certain of when it comes to God’s intentions. God’s intentions are clear to us, revealed to us, and in our faces.
GOD’S INTENTIONS ARE CLEAR TO US, REVEALED TO US, AND IN OUR FACES.
All of God’s intentions toward us are birthed from a heart that is filled with BOTH a desire for intimacy with His creation, and an experiencing of His glory from that same creation.
God’s glory is first and foremost, underneath and above, in front and on the side and behind. But then just after we’re exposed to the glory of God in some amazing manner, we’re wooed by that same God into intimacy with Him.
Christmas seems to be that event where both of these intentions – glory and intimacy – just pour out into a world that may have forgotten.
If you had the capacity to look into the glorious face of God right now and ask Him why He’s doing or saying or allowing anything to happen in your life or in this world, His answer would be simple. “So that I can be glorified and experience intimacy with you.” And whether it makes sense to us or not, He’ll just keep repeating it because it’s always the truth.
Because in some amazing way that only God can envision, He already knows how that will play out in our lives, both in the immediate, the not-too-distant future, and the eternal future. His intentions toward us for any action are always fueled by receiving glory and dispensing intimacy.
GOD’S INTENTIONS FOR ANY ACTION ARE ALWAYS FUELED BY RECEIVING GLORY AND DISPENSING INTIMACY.
When God woke up this morning, He opened the curtains of heaven, walked into the kitchen, brewed a cup of bold coffee, and looked with wonder and joy at the day that lay ahead of Him. And as He looked at that exact possibility, He allowed a desire for His own glory to propel Him into a closer walk with those who would recognize it.
And the cry of a child in a manger on the outskirts of Bethlehem provides a river of understanding into God’s intentions toward you. Toward me. And toward a world that would eventually pin him to a cross.
Glory from all creation.
Intimacy toward all creation.
Orchestrated and symphonic, together and separate, partially here and fully someday, the culmination of the angel’s chorus as they sing: “GLORY to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE….”.