I'll be up front about admitting that I'm a horrible blogger. Life has gotten way too busy for me to update my blog faithfully, but here we are. Allow me give a quick school update, because that's not the main reason I'm posting today. I'm halfway through my second year of dental school. I'm surviving and finding ways to enjoy it even though this is the toughest and most hectic year of the four (or so we've heard; honestly, they're all hard, ha). Most of my time is spent studying or working on lab work for several classes. This spring will be the final push before we start seeing patients this summer. We take National Boards Part 1 this summer, and we start treating patients in clinic sometime in June or July. Terrifying? Yes. Exciting? You bet!
Enough about school. Today is Christmas Eve. I've always loved the Christmas season. Like any kid, I always looked forward to opening presents on Christmas morning, and let's be honest...I still do, ha. But as I've grown older, especially these last few years, I've come to appreciate the time spent with family much more. But even though I've "grown up" in church and have been a Christian since I was 7, I still don't think I've ever really appreciated the reason we even celebrate Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ. But this Christmas season has been different for me, and I'm grateful for that.
After some "shopping" and a lot of driving back to Etown for church, I now consider Southeast Christian Church my church home in Louisville. I've joined a small group, I've made lots of new friends, and I truly love worshipping there on Sundays. For the last few weeks, we've been in a sermon series called "Socks and Underwear". Socks and underwear are typically gifts that you get at Christmas that you really don't want, even though they may be exactly what you need. So, that has been the theme as we've taken a different approach to the Christmas story: The Jewish people back in the Jesus' day viewed him as their socks and underwear. When they expected the Messiah, they envisioned a warrior king, not a poor, humble carpenter born in a barn. However, Jesus was exactly what they needed, even though they didn't realize it. Studying the prophets and the Gospels from that approach has really given me a renewed sense of awe, humility, and gratitude for the Gift that we received over 2,000 years ago.
I also had the pleasure of seeing Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God" last Thursday in Nashville at the Ryman with some of my best friends. What a night! For those of you who have never heard of it before, it's a concert, for lack of a better word, that is completely based on Scripture. Starting in the Old testament, it goes through the Bible and explains Israel's (and our) need for a Savior; it ends with the birth of Christ in the Gospels. The music is very powerful and thought provoking, and it opened my eyes yet again to the truth of the Christmas story. Jesus came to redeem a world that was ravaged and oppressed by sin, and the entire Bible is devoted to telling that story. The Old Testament isn't just a compilation of books of laws, poems, and prophecies, but rather story that points directly to Christ. I've heard that all throughout college, but for the first time, it resonated and really affected me.
Growing up singing Christmas carols, reading the Christmas story from Luke, seeing the birth of Christ portrayed by various Christmas programs had given me a view of the birth story that wasn't entirely accurate. Jesus wasn't born on just a silent night, and most likely it wasn't all calm. He was born during a Roman census in a tiny, crowded city. He was born in a dirty barn that was full of animals, behind an inn. There were no nurses, no doctors, no midwives. Mary and Joseph were young, newly married virgins who were probably scared to death to be delivering a baby alone in such filthy conditions. And that's not even the half of it. This wasn't just a boy that grew up to become our Savior. Jesus left his throne in Heaven, spent 9 months in Mary's womb, and was born as a tiny baby into these conditions...not a birth that's fitting for such a King. He was with God from the beginning. He was there when God spoke everything into creation. He witnessed the downfall of man. He knew what he was being born into, and knew that he would have to die alone on a cross. He knew exactly what he was coming to do, and he did it willingly because he loves us so much. That is why we celebrate Christmas.
**Forgive me if you read all of this and said "Duh, Ryan." I just wanted to express the complete awe and humility that I've been blessed to feel these last couple of weeks. I really believe this is the first time that I've truly appreciated just how amazing and how huge the birth of Christ really is, and even though it saddens me that it has taken 24 years for it to happen, I'm truly grateful for this revelation. I'm even more grateful that the God of the Universe loves me enough to save me in such a way. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and that you and your families will be blessed this season. :)