“How will this be” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).
Christmas has been slow in coming this year. Maybe that’s a statement about me personally, but I think it’s more than that. It’s almost as if the whole nation has been busy and distracted and we almost forgot that a special occasion is just around the corner. But now, at last, Christmas is upon us, just thirteen days away. Earlier this week I looked at our tree and realized we had some work to do. And that’s why I’ve been shopping not once but twice and even three times this week. And I even enjoyed it, although nowadays I prefer to do as much shopping as possible via the Internet.
But gift-giving does not exhaust the meaning of this holiday. Behind the celebration is a solemn and wonderful truth: the birth of Jesus Christ signals that God has entered our world. You will recall that the name Immanuel means “God with us.” The angel told Joseph to call the baby Immanuel because that’s precisely what Jesus is--God with us. He stripped off his royal robes and exchanged them for strips of peasant cloth. He traded a palace for a stable so that he might truly be “God with us.”
Here’s how one Statement of Faith puts it: “We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, and is fully God and fully Man.” That sentence contains a phrase that will make the smartest man stop and scratch his head: “fully God and fully man." How that could be is a mystery to us. By that phrase we simply mean that the baby in the manger was God in human flesh. John 1:14 explains the matter this way: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” See his little hands and feet; they are the hands and feet of God. Listen to him laugh; it is the laughter of God. Wipe the tears from his infant cheeks; you are wiping the tears of God.
Some things we understand and therefore believe. Christmas is a miracle of another order. We can think of a thousand other ways God could have done it. But God chose the unusual (a virgin birth) and the unlikely (a baby born in a stable) as his means of visiting our planet. As we ponder the meaning of it all, our theology leads us to mystery and the mystery leads to wonderment. At Christmastime, like the Wise Men of old, we are invited to bring our gifts to Bethlehem and welcome God to our world.
Gracious Lord, you entered our world and brought light into our darkness. We gladly say, “Welcome to our world.” We hope you feel at home because we need you so much. Amen.