Focused by Jesus

In last month’s blog, I referenced a song by my friend Andrew Peterson. Katie and I really appreciate his music and also how he uses it to foster community around him. One of the ways he does this is by getting his friends together every Christmas for a concert called “Behold the Lamb of God.” It’s the story, through music, of humanity, our desire for a king to rescue us, and the coming of Jesus to do just that. 

The series of songs begins with Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, where they had been slaves for generations. We realize, in the first half of the concert, that mankind was aching for Jesus long before his advent. Then we transition to the New Testament, ushered in by “Matthew’s Begats,” a silly bluegrass song that runs through the genealogy of Christ. As this song concludes, we begin the Nativity story in the more traditional sense, introducing Mary and Joseph, then the birth of Jesus, followed by the visit of the shepherds and a beautiful declaration of Christ as King.

For a Christmas gift to ourselves, Katie and I went to Nashville last year to enjoy the concert live at the Ryman Auditorium. We went with a handful friends and it was really a wonderful time. But I confess, I was distracted. Even with the best people around me and such a sweet gift as this concert was, when the music started, my mind was scattered.

This concert and its subsequent album have been around for my entire adult life. I know the songs and they mean so much to me. And I was sitting there with my wonderful wife. A dream come true! But I was so agitated and distant, my center-aisle seat on the 8th row might as well have been on the moon. Everything in me wanted to be there, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt helpless, trapped somewhere else. I tried singing along, tried scolding myself, tried squeezing Katie’s hand that was holding mine, just to remind myself where I was. But nothing was working. I felt alone. Frustration and despair crept over the beautiful evening, even as Andrew sang, “Abraham had Isaac; Isaac, he had Jacob…” and introduced Mary and Joseph “on their way to Bethlehem.”

But something remarkable happened then. A miracle. As the musical narrative moved into the birth of Jesus, as He “arrived” on the scene, my mind cleared. I could see the band, hear the songs, understand it all and enjoy it. I was suddenly present, and I began to weep. There is power in His name and in His presence. Power to heal the sick, set the captives free, and bring peace to a stormy mind. 

I can’t help thinking of Peter striving to do the right thing, or the thousands of folks who came from all over to see Jesus for a miracle. What happened when they heard His name? What happened when they heard His voice say their name? What happened when they came face-to-face with Him? What happened when they looked into His eyes and He looked into theirs? What happened when He touched them? I sometimes wonder… when He was here in the flesh, how much change happened because He was DOING things, and how of it was just because He was WITH us?