“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5.23-24 CEV
Christmas is the time of year when it seems that almost everyone we know – young and old – get excited. Trees are decorated. Lights are strung. Our friends and family members go shopping, buying gifts for their loved ones. Others bake candies and cook food for the needy. The Salvation Army workers ring the bells collecting monies for the poor who can not afford to have a Christmas celebration. Toys are collected for children who will not otherwise have toys to celebrate the joyous day. Socks, coats, and blankets are collected for the cold winter months ahead. It even seems as though Christmas has become not only a Christian holiday but also a secular holiday full of excitement.
I’ve noticed that some people get excited about receiving gifts, others get excited about giving gifts. Some look forward to the Christmas meal. And still others get excited about visiting with relatives. Each person has a special place in their heart for this time of year. But God the Father’s special place is Jesus.
When I think of the Incarnation and the virgin birth, I think about a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger in Bethlehem in Judea. A pauper’s birth to be followed by a pauper’s death. I cannot envision Jesus’ birth without seeing at the same time his death. They are so tightly woven together; just as Jesus’ divinity and humanity are so tightly bound to one another.
Christ Jesus emptied himself to become one of us – God in the flesh – so that we would not die in our sins but have life everlasting. The purpose of the Incarnation was Easter. Jesus came to us as a baby born of woman to die for us as a man under the law. It is not hard to see the love that God has for humanity in both situations.
When Jesus came to be born of the Virgin, he set aside all of his divinity. Jesus accepted the limitations of the human existence. His all powerfulness was put on hold. His being everywhere all the time was restrained. His know everything was limited. It’s hard to imagine that Jesus chose to limit his ability to use his Godhood while he lived upon this earth, but he did. He made that very difficult choice for us.
It seems only natural when we encounter Jesus we should get excited and worship him. Just as the righteous man Simeon, when hearing the cry of the baby Jesus and seeing him for the first time in the temple courts, he took Jesus in his arms and praised God. Even still, when the Magi came from the east to visit the child, Jesus, “they bowed down and worshiped him.” (Mt. 2:1,11) When Thomas encountered the resurrected Jesus, he responded, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:26-28) These people got excited about Jesus. Let us, too, get excited about Jesus.
When we worship Jesus, we worship both his humanity and his divinity. They cannot be separated. It is hard for us to comprehend Jesus as being both 100% human and 100% God. Yet, we see from the language of Scripture that his disciples recognized both qualities in him. His humanness began with the Incarnation.
When we consider the Incarnation, it draws us to reflect on Jesus’ whole life, not just his birth. Jesus was born of woman and he died under the law and in between those two events he lived a full life. Jesus grew up from an infant to a man. During those years, he experienced bodily needs such as hunger, thirst, and being tired. He was an average person with a fully functional mind. He experienced emotions like being sad and weeping. He held a job as a carpenter before beginning his three years of ministry. He was, indeed, fully human. And as we consider the Incarnation this Christmas, let us together remember the fullness of the man and the fullness of his divinity.
My prayer for you this Christmas is that you would get excited about Jesus. This year, may your hearts and minds be atune to His Holy Spirit. May your ears hear his Voice and your hands be outstretched in giving. May your eyes fall upon the nativity of Christ Jesus with wonder and amazement while at the same time remembering his life and his work on Calvary. Merry Christmas!