Today I experienced true poverty for the first time since arriving in Southeast Asia. Up until now, I’ve seen different standards of living that, before I experienced life overseas, I would have thought were poor but have come to accept as simply different. Today for a split second, I saw a naked man digging through piles of garbage, waist deep in stagnant water, while we were driving in Jakarta. It was less than a second, but my mind held the image for a long time. It’s still with me.
Yesterday, I would have said that other parts of the world are mostly just misunderstood by Americans. I would have said that we label countries third-world that simply value different things… like air conditioning, indoor plumbing, or non-dirt floors. Those things are not necessities. Those are just things that we take for granted.
But I wonder about that man.
Does he have a family? Will he catch a disease from that water? If he does, will he die? Why does no one help him?
Christmas music is playing as I write this entry. It surrounds me as the musician joyfully sings, “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.” How come all I see is this man when all I can hear is “Joy to the World?”
I think God is reminding me that He came here. The most glorious being EVER became incarnate on earth… the same earth where this man digs through rubbish… the same earth where I try to ignore that man.
No matter how broken this world may seem, we can still shout, “Joy to the World” because He is here. He did not leave us to die hopeless. We might be digging in the trash right now, but there will come a day when the incarnate one returns to heal and restore.
We celebrate Christmas because he came here in flesh. We have hope because he is coming back to finish what he started.