God, being God, could have gone through the entirety of human existence and always keep us at bay. God could have given us the ol’ eternal Heisman and kept his distance. And that’s the story some believe about God. That’s the idea of God many of the founding fathers of our country had. They believed in deistic creative force who started it all, wound the clock of the world, and then has let it spin on its own while God entered into an early retirement far away.
But the Christian story, the Christmas story is that God came near. And what’s more, it’s not just that God made a way for us to come to God. God came to us. God got up close and personal. The Word became flesh and set up his tent among us.
Jesus experienced it all—the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs, the love and the hate, the joys and the sorrows, the pleasures and the pain. He eats and drinks and sleeps. He breaths and he bleeds. From a human birth to a horrible, unjust death, Jesus goes through the full human experience. And the book of Hebrews tells us the reasons. One is to destroy the power of sin and death that hung over humanity. But the other is all about empathy and ministry.
It is extraordinarily powerful that the God of gods and Lord of lord, the one who was there at the beginning and through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that has been made…that God is able to say: I understand. I can relate. I’ve been there. I get it. You are not alone. The empathy of Jesus is an amazing gift we receive from Christmas.
And because of that, empathy is an amazing gift we can give as well. So give the gift of empathy this Christmas. You don’t have to have identical experiences to identify with struggle, sin, or suffering. Turn your experience into compassionate understanding. Let your places of grief lead you to grace.