I love the story of Eutychus in Acts (chapter 20, verse 7 – 12). It’s one of those rare biblical stories with quirkiness and humor. Eutychus, in case you’re not familiar with the story, is a teenager. In fact, I think he’s a middle schooler, because Luke describes Euty using a word that means “past puberty but not yet married” at one point, and another word that means “boy” at another point.
Eutychus is hanging around (apparently without his parents present) at a late night meeting of the early church, on a night when Paul likes the sound of his own words a bit too much. Luke, the wordsmith of New Testament writing, describes Paul talking “on and on.” In the midst of Paul’s longwinded way-past-his-allotted-sermon-time teaching marathon, Eutychus falls asleep sitting on a windowsill in the 3rd story room where the meeting is taking place. And he drops like a rock. Unfortunately, he doesn’t fall into the room, but out – a plunge to his death.
What happens next is, well, weird. And beautiful. The menagerie of people rush down to find Eutychus dead, while Paul seemingly saunters down last. Paul does this remarkably strange thing: he gets down to Eutychus’ dead body and gives him a big bear hug. Then Paul proclaims Eutychus still alive, which, it just so happens, is now true. The whole group heads back upstairs and has a meal together. And in the morning (after Paul spends more hours teaching!), we’re told the community took Eutychus home and were greatly encouraged (worth noting: it doesn’t say they were encouraged by Paul’s teaching; it says they were encouraged by the life of this middle schooler in their midst).
Here’s the Christmas-y part: Paul got awkward in order to connect with Eutychus. There’s no way around the reality that, for those watching this whole thing unfold, Paul’s prostrate Euty-hug would have been an uncomfortable and weird moment. Even for Paul, who never seemed to have any reservations about his actions, this was quirky behavior.
Think about the idea of getting awkward in order to connect. It’s deeply incarnational stuff. The ultimate example of getting awkward in order to connect is certainly Jesus humbly giving up his “rights” in order to be born as a helpless human baby – in order to connect with us.
This is the central celebration of Christmas – Emmanuel: God with us.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to imitate him. In doing so, we enter into the best way to live. So it follows, that if we really want to celebrate Christmas, we should consider ways to get awkward in order to connect with others. Most of us avoid uncomfortable relational situations. But what would your Christmas season be like if you intentionally chose to do the opposite? What would your Christmas season be like if you intentionally chose to incarnate the love of God for others in a manner that feels uncomfortable to you?
Let’s get awkward this Christmas!
Mark Oestreicher is a 30-year veteran of youth ministry, and the former President of Youth Specialties. Marko has written or contributed to more than 50 books, including the much-talked-about Youth Ministry 3.0. Marko is a speaker, author, consultant, and leads the Youth Ministry Coaching Program. For information on booking him at your next event call 615-283-0039.