In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-2,14)
The opening verses of John’s Gospel may not seem related to Christmas at first. But they tell us something incredible. The eternal God who was before all things determined to leave eternity, break into time, take upon Himself our humanity, and be born as a baby. Can it really be true that the invisible God, the idea behind all things, the motivating force who existed before all things, came to earth as a baby of Bethlehem? I believe so. But why?
It’s impossible for us to comprehend God. Just as you can’t pour an ocean into a thimble, you can’t fit the mind of God into the human brain. So God decided that He would translate Himself into a language humans could understand. And that’s why Jesus was born. He came to interpret God to us in our own language. The invisible God doesn’t make sense to us without Jesus, the visible expression of God. The Word became a baby in order to interpret God to us.
The Word also became flesh in order to identify with us. How does God identify with a mere mortal? Let’s look at the facts of Jesus’ birth and early life.
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). His mother was pregnant before she should have been—not a big issue these days, but certainly a big issue in that culture and time. That meant that Jesus was ostracized by many people from the beginning, because His very birth was questionable in the community.
“There was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7 NASB). Jesus’ parents had no place to stay, and thus he was born in a stable. Jesus was homeless right from the very beginning of his life.
“Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt” (Matt. 2:13). Soon after Jesus’ birth, the paranoid and murderous king Herod forced Mary and Joseph to flee for their lives to Egypt. Jesus and his family were refugees for two years.
Jesus could easily have chosen to be born in very different circumstances, but He came to identify with ordinary people. Ordinary people live in stressful circumstances. Ordinary people are surrounded by misunderstanding about who they are and what they are about. In Jesus, God identified with humanity at every point of our pain.
God, whom we can’t see, is interpreted to us in Christ. He didn’t sit in heaven indifferent to our pain, but identified with us in Christ, even to the point of taking upon Himself our sin. Out of love, the sinless One chose to die a shameful death on a cross. He dealt with the one thing that stood between us and God.
So as we travel to that long-ago manger to meet the Christ child, let us see more clearly the Father who sent Him. A child in a manger is not intimidating. A child is meek and gentle. But the child can lead us to the man who is Jesus. This is the reason for the season.