And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
To me, this verse encapsulates both the wonder and the irony of Christmas. It is a beautiful mystery that God should choose to present His glory in a tangible form to mankind through the rather commonplace miracle (if there are such things) of the birth of a Baby.
In that manger so many years ago lay the Divine irony: that the glorious Creator of all things would stoop to take part in His creation, but not as one would expect a God to arrive; clothed in splendor and honor and wielding great power. Instead, He chose to come as a Man and with all man’s limitations, including beginning life as a an utterly dependent, helpless infant. The Almighty in diapers. Just imagine!
Furthering the paradox, the King of kings was not even born into human royalty. Instead, He came humbly, born into a family most likely socially tainted by the scandal of His mother’s implausible claim concerning her pregnancy, born not into silken sheets and sturdy housing, but in a pen for animals.
His earthly parents were even too poor even to afford a lamb to sacrifice for Mary’s purification as the Law demanded (Leviticus 12:6-8, Luke 2:22-24). Nor did He choose a life of popularity, wealth, and ease, but one of poverty, hard work, and difficulty.
This is perhaps the most perplexing facet of the Christmas story; that the Most High God decided not only to become a man, but also to participate fully in the human experience, including both physical and emotional pain. And though He came to His own creatures, they knew Him not and many even scorned and mocked this, the most gracious act of love in history.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
It is for this reason that He is a God like no other, for He understands humanity not just theoretically or as its Creator, but by becoming one of us; by living as a man.
But He is also a Man like no other, for Jesus understood what it meant to be human and to feel the weight of grief. Yet He also understood something we cannot: He understood, too, what it meant to be Divine.
Do you see the absurdity of this gift? Crazily and against all logic, the Creator subjected Himself to human limitations in order to provide for rebellious humanity the briefest glimpse of Divine life here in the dust of the earth. By living as a man as man should have been — without sin –and then willingly giving Himself up for our ransom, He extends an invitation to all mankind to a future hope beyond grief.
Even crazier, this invitation remains open to those who despise Him still, for it is not His will that any of His beloved should die apart from Him.
Besides understanding a depth and breadth of grief that we never could, He also understood the full power of temptation in a way that none of us can for the simple fact that none of us have withstood temptation to the utmost and prevailed.
Without exception, we have all fallen; we have all given in to the allure of some personal weakness and sinned. However, our Lord never did. Alone among man, He has endured the full force of temptation and remained standing at the end. He, alone, knows the precise limits of temptation and the entire weight of resistance.
He became Man as man was meant to be — pure, sinless, in perfect fellowship with the Father. Perhaps, even, He became more human than any of us simply because the image of God given to humanity was marred and distorted at the Fall, but it was restored in the Person of Christ.
“He is the radiance of the Glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” (Hebrews 1:3a).
Oh, my thoughts are tangled and almost too complex for words. Still, I do hope you will hear my heart and the great awe I have for my Lord. May He be as real and as amazing to You!
There is more, so much more, but for now let it suffice to say that for me, Christmas is always a time of joyful solemnity, because when I look at the Babe in the manger, I always see the shadow of the cross falling over His infinitely precious features.
But I also to see beyond that ancient instrument of torture and death to the victory — the Light of the world walking out of the darkness of the grave, bringing hope to all who love Him and who struggle yet under the living death of this world.
May the hope of Christ restore your heart this Christmas. Merry Christmas, my friends!