Saturday, December 23, 2006

the delight and wonder of christmas

one of the treats of this particular christmas has been the chance to finally meet baby s, the newest member of our extended family. you may remember her from a previous post featuring her and big sister l. we've been looking forward to this encounter for a long time, and as time time drew nearer, our anticipation grew. on this past friday, we started the long trek to washington dc and 14 hours later (and after unplanned excursions through rural pennsylavnia and rural virginia), we arrived in the wee hours of the morning. by that time, she was asleep, of course.

the first photo here was from later that morning, just after i met her. conventional wisdom was that she would warm up to us a little slowly, as she has to nearly all of the new people in her life; she has, after all, had a lot to adjust to over the past few months — being brought into her new family and moving from china to germany to the us. but she has been so much fun, socializing and flirting with all of us, and generally captivating the room at every turn. what a delight!

there is something wonderful about having a direct connection to someone. it's not that we haven't known s at all; we've been reading about her, hearing the stories, talking to her on the phone, and even seeing photos and video online. but there's something qualitatively different about looking into her eyes and holding her in our arms. it's a direct encounter that no report or photo can ever approach. there's a certain ineffable quality to a genuine, unmediated relationship. and it was worth all of the effort that it took to make it happen, though i'm certain that she can't imagine what it has cost.

so much of this reminds me of how christians think about this time of year — the anticipation of finally meeting a long-awaited dear one, the many unexpected hardships along the way, the thrill of a face-to-face meeting that surpasses any report or simple factual knowledge. those of us who take the time to reflect during the season of advent often think of ourselves as the ones who are waiting, enduring in hope for the sake of an encounter with Jesus. and there's certainly some validity to looking at it that way.

but i think the wonder of christmas is all that God embraced to have an intimate connection with us. the amazing thing is not just that God loves us and wants to restore the sin-broken relationship with humanity, as astonishing as that might be; rather, it is that God would demonstrate that love by bridging the gap himself by coming in human form and making himself vulnerable to his own creation. it is not just that he would find a way to defeat sin and death so that we could live with him forever, but that he would do it by living our life, suffering our sufferings, experiencing our temptations, and eventually, dying our death. it is not just that God knows everything about our lives, but that he has experienced them from the inside. it is not just that Jesus came to make payment on an otherwise unpayable debt, but that he took on helplessness, pain, and hardship for the sake of a direct encounter with us — to look into our eyes and hold us in his arms, as it were.

that is the love that will not let us go, the love that is wooing me and you. will you open the door to him?
Jesus says, "behold, i stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, i will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me." revelation 3:20

Thursday, December 14, 2006

news from abroad

one of the joys of the work we do is getting to have friends throughout the world. not surprisingly, God continues to work in their lives, and it's a privilege to continue to be a part of that. we get news all too infrequently for our taste, but when we do, it's a lot of fun:

german friend m just finished her bachelor's thesis and will head to mali in the spring for a mission project. she is completing her applications for graduate school in neuroscience, including the program at prestigious oxford. selfishly, we were rooting for something closer to us! :-)

australian friend s left us about six months ago and promptly got engaged! she and fiance d will be getting married in the 2nd half of 2007; not easy to mesh schedules when both of you are physicians. to our delight, the two of them will also be international student ministry volunteers next year in melbourne!

singaporean friend e has finally completed a busy semester in which he took five modules and worked as a teaching assistant. he'll be doing some travel — to india and possibly sri lanka on a work/research trip, then hong kong for an internship interview. he's also seen some exciting personal news, with one sister getting married and another having a little boy!

b also sent news from singapore, as she too has finished her semester. she just returned from thailand and will be headed next to malaysia. she's been seeing someone special for about 5 months, and plans to be baptized early in the new year.

from japan, t reports that she's been ultra-busy. when she's not working, she's been caring for her ailing mother and grandmother, and working on graduate school applications, though it sounds like she's still pondering how those will end up fitting together.

it's nice to know that when people leave montreal, the friendship doesn't have to stop. now, when we can get some money together, we have many places we'd like to visit!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


it seems that the prevailing sentiment of our day is that friends are people who treat you nicely and who accept you just as you are. i guess that's half true. but oscar wilde once said, "a true friend stabs you in the front," and that's certainly been my experience. it doesn't always feel nice. but a real friend is the kind of person who is willing to tell you the truth.

i actually had that experience on our recent trip to toronto. good friends sat down with me and asked about my approach to certain problems, and it became clear that i needed to address certain personal issues. to be honest, i wasn't thrilled. it's not that they weren't nice; they were very kind. but who wants to discover that there's something wrong? these are not really new issues — stuff like how i handle anxiety, a tendency to be over-reactive, and a long running battle with perfectionism — but Lord has successfully put them back on the front burner.

i've got good friends, the kind who love you the way that you are, but are committed enough to you that they wouldn't want to leave you that way. it's a micro-picture of the kind of love that God has for us.