"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2).
Jesus grew up as a tender plant, like a hidden seed buried in the ground, unseen, silently developing into beauty. He was born in a lowly position and conducted his life with a meek and humble character, nothing of great note, silently and simply obeying his Father.
However, the Jews, looking for a Messiah of power, greatness, nobility, with public fanfare and pomp, striking in charm and beauty, dismissed him. What does that mean for us?
We praise and follow those who boldly make loads of noise and draw attention to themselves or their cause. We, too, are looking for someone to follow, someone to lead the way with charisma and energy. But that is not the image of Christ from the manger to the cross. His was a simple, single-minded life of tenderness and love for all.
I was challenged by Ephesians 4:32, "Be ye kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as Christ hath forgive you."
Tenderhearted. Am I? Are you? Do we even know what that means? It basically means compassion, love in action. It is the very essence of the Gospel - for God so loved that He gave.
When we read Jesus' attitude in life and reactions on the way to the cross, we see nothing but tenderness. He knew his purpose and the outcome, and he also knew how he was to give his sacrifice.
In Isaiah 53:7, 8, 3, we see that foretold. "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth, he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
The gospel writers also bear testimony of how Jesus laid down his life with a spirit that quietly and tenderly exhibited his divine sensitivity and beauty of spirit.
We are called to be and do likewise - to be Christlike. "Deep tenderness of spirit is the very soul and marrow of the Christ-life." Oh, we can be very religious and heartily do our Christian work. We can strive for sanctification, be a brave defender and preacher of holiness, and yet, lack tenderness.
Tenderness is that "all subduing, all-melting love, which is the very cream and quintessence of Heaven and which incessantly streamed out from the voice and eyes of the blessed Jesus."
It is a "supernatural work throughout the whole spiritual being. It is an exquisitely interior fountain of God's own sweetness and tenderness of nature, opened up in the inner spirit to such a degree that it completely inundates the soul, overflowing all the mental faculties and saturating with its sweet waters the manners, expression, words, and tones of the voice; mellowing the will, softening the judgment, melting the affections, refining the manners, and molding the whole being after the image of Him who was infinitely meek and lowly in heart."
Have we been touched by the depth of His tenderness? Or are we hard and critical, cold and demanding, wearied and impatient? Are we looking for something stronger, louder, and more exciting to follow?
As we take time to focus on the babe in the manger, maybe we need to shut out the noise of the season and look at the quietness of the holy night, the gentle babe, and His mission. Then, maybe our prayer would be, "O, Lord, may the tenderness of Christ be the striking chord of my heart and demeanor this Christmas."