In America, and many parts of the entertainment world, people really like dramatic Before-and-After experiences.
We watch a home go from a hoarder’s filled mess to a dream home;
We watch the un-groomed man or woman become fashionable;
We watch a special nanny whip disrespectful kids into shape;
We praise the salvation experience– before we were heathens, now we are saved.
We love the drama.
We’re addicted to the adrenaline of the outcome.
Today is Christmas Eve, and if you’re a Christian like I am, we celebrate that today is a Before-and-After experience, too.
Before Jesus and After Jesus.
Before salvation and After salvation.
As much as the world ached for the Savior, we can’t forget that it was still a world in which God was present. Too often, we demonize what was Before, and we say that the After picture means true victory.
Sometimes, this is absolutely accurate.
But let’s not forget the life blood still pumping in the Before.
Let’s not forget the heart and soul of people struggling to be truly kind and good in the Before.
I’m reminded of America’s history here.
To the European colonizers who came to make something great out of this land, the After picture was the true pride and victory of what we now call the United States.
But remember, friends– what was here in the Before?
Groups of indigenous people, thriving on our land, tending to the earth.
We were still hurting people who sometimes fell into war and malice.
But we, as people of the Before, were still humans searching for and listing to the voice of the Creator.
Let’s remember that our opinions of the Before are not always accurate, and let’s trust that sometimes the After actually takes away our humanity, too.
So on Christmas, while God dwells in the After of Jesus, God always dwells in the Before, too.
As an Evangelical, I grew up, with my community, painting salvation stories really clearly– I was lost, now I’m found.
It’s the ultimate Before-and-After.
But lately, I’ve had to break myself free from that paradigm.
Because too often we begin, as people of the After, to demonize those of the Before. We belittle their existence and experiences, and in doing so, the grace of God to truly be with us–our Emmanuel.
So as you watch Before-and-After experiences unfold, remember that both may not always be what they seem.
After all, Jesus taught, as an adult, that his very presence exists in people you’d least expect– children, the poor, widows and orphans, the alien. They are people that the world pushes impatiently into transformation.
If he teaches that, maybe the Before experiences are worth paying attention to.
At my in-laws’ house on Christmas Eve, I’m watching snow fall and cover everything in its wake.
As I watch this tiny spot of the world transform into the After, I can’t help but look out and say a word of gratitude to the Before, to yesterday, to the snowless moments that prepared me for this very instant of awe.
Merry Christmas, friends.
May you find glory in the Before as well as the After, and in every space of transformation along the way.