The Christmas story... most of us know it well. The all-mighty, all-powerful God of the universe depositing Himself into the silky-soft skin of a newborn baby. All because of love. That amazing fact still baffles my mind... as well it should. But perhaps what is equally baffling is why Jesus, the Son, God-in-flesh, would not only join the human race, but would sign up for the entire human experience.
So often at Christmastime, we're tempted to stop the narrative at the manger. To end the story with the successful birth. And when you think about it, newborn babies tend to do that to us. We marvel over their perfect features and are drawn to their helpless innocence. We want to linger a little longer at the sound of their gentle cooing and snuggle-up-close to their baby-fresh scent. And we do. And it's good.
However, if we allow ourselves to pause too long at the delivery of this Baby, we might miss the underplayed significance of the arrival of the Son.
The magnitude of this history-making event is not lost on the prophet Isaiah. In the ninth chapter of his book he pronounced,
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given..." (Isaiah 9:6 KJV)
The events converging as one. Two distinct sides to one very necessary coin. Yes, the Man-child was born into the human family. But for that to happen, the God-Son had to be given. And He was.
This was Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us. He was the audible, visible One Who expressed the heart of the omnipresent, yet invisible God. And He came to dwell among us (John 1:14).
I need to take a moment and let that sink in. Almighty God, the Creator of air and water and soil, having spun them together into the fabric of nature, now slips into a dusty suit Himself. Majesty in the midst of the mundane.
In his book, Just Like Jesus, author Max Lucado had this to say about God's physical Presence on earth.
"When God entered time and became a
man, He who was boundless became bound. Imprisoned in flesh. For more than
three decades, His once limitless reach would be limited to the stretch of an
arm, His speed checked to the pace of human feet." ~ Max
A few years ago, Joan Osborne made popular a song entitled, What if God Was One of Us? Well Joan, He was. Referring to Jesus in his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul wrote that,
"God was pleased to have all of Himself live in Christ." (Colossians 1:19 GWT)
And from the lips of Jesus Himself, the book of John records Him saying,
Jesus, the Son of God, traded the throne room of the universe for the filth and stench of an animal's stable. God, the Son, Who was in the beginning, before the creation of man, submitted Himself to the afflictions of man. As a Boy, He may have skinned His knee, twisted His ankle, fought with acne. As a Man, we know He grew weary, was thirsty, felt compassion. And that was only the beginning. Jesus knew the sting of rejection. Felt the hurt of abandonment. Knew the pain of the beatings. And the thorns. And the nails. And the spear. With all of the power of His Divinity available and alive in Him, Jesus chose to limit Himself as a Man, even unto the Cross.
Reading from The Message version of the Bible, listen to what the writer to the Hebrews said in chapter 4 of the humanity of Jesus:
"...[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin." (Hebrews 4:15 NLT)
Jesus experienced it all. And that's the beauty of 'God with us.' That's the story of the Cross. Not that He needed to have those experiences to understand us... but so that because of them, we now know He does.
And so the next time we softly sing "Away in a Manger", let's allow our mind's eye to drift beyond the cattle, the hay and the sleeping Child. Let's remember the Centerpiece of the Christmas narrative. Almighty God, perfect and glorious, embracing mankind with arms of flesh. All because of love.
And that is truly great tidings of COMFORT AND JOY.