I recently listened to Gay Girl, Good God written by Christian author and poet Jackie Hill-Perry. In the book, she describes the moment she encountered God – the moment Her heavenly Father came knocking at her bedroom door, revealing Himself to her through the stirring of the Holy Spirit. She was sitting in the privacy of her bedroom wrestling with the brokenness of her life and her depravity when the truth of God’s love began to wash over her.
“Everything good, holy, merciful, jealous, wise, perfect, and love and incomprehensible and triune and amazing and magnificent and beautiful and grand and insanely wonderful… God in Christ, came from heaven, for me? Of all people?
Who gave Mercy my address or told it how to get to my room? Didn’t it know a sinner lived in it? On the way down the hall, shouldn’t the smell of idols kept its feet from moving any closer?” [from “Gay Girl, Good God” by Jackie Hill-Perry]
In response, she then began to confess her sins and place her faith in Christ. As I listened to this, I broke down in tears overwhelmed by the lavish love of God and His endless pursuit of sinners like Jackie, sinners like me, sinners like you. The rotting stench of our sin – no matter how grave or how shameful or how pungent – does not drive away the mercy and grace of our Lord!
In fact, Mercy came for us . . . in the stench of a stable.
It’s all too easy for the magnitude of this familiar scene of Jesus born in a manger to be somewhat lost on us during Christmas season. Nativity scenes portray these cute farm animals with their adoring eyes staring down at baby Jesus with his pinchable chubby cheeks. But do we pause to consider that the King of kings was willing to humble himself, take on the frail form of man, arrive among the smell of barn animals, to be with and among us? God with us, Emmanuel. He came down into the brokenness and messiness and the stench of this sinful world to rescue sinners like you and me.
After describing this encounter with God in her book, Jackie Hill-Perry recalls the one verse in the Bible she knew by heart at that moment, letting the powerful, life-transforming truth of it sink in:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
God, Creator of the Universe and all that’s in it, sent His Son to save us so that we can be with Him for eternity. Friend, no matter where you are – whether someone who has long professed faith in Christ or someone who has yet to know the sweet aroma of His mercy and grace – please know this. The Savior of the World came to earth, lived the righteous life we never could, and died an excruciating death on the cross for our sins. The stench of the stable, and more importantly, the stench of our sin, were not enough to keep Jesus away! “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Let the sweet fragrance of His grace and this amazing truth wash over us this advent season.
Rachel Sang is the Assistant Director of Grace Kids, our children’s ministry.