A brand new baby is a reminder of God’s creative power. Recently little Josiah, our brand new grandson, graced our family, and with his coming has come the reminder of what a little baby is like. It has been so wonderful to hold that little guy and look at his perfectly formed features and marvel at the God who created him.
Can you try to imagine the feelings of Mary and Joseph as they looked into the face of their newborn baby that first Christmas? It was a remarkable moment. Though they were young, the extraordinary events that occurred opened their awareness that this was no ordinary child. The visits of Gabriel the Ark Angel, the sudden arrival of the shepherds and now the birth of Jesus their baby all seemed to make the ugly, hateful comments of friends and family distant. This was their special moment—one they would never forget. Philip Yancey, in the book The Jesus I Never Knew, describes this moment like this:
“One day in the cold, in the dark, among the wrinkled hills of Bethlehem, God who knows no before or after entered time and space. God who knows no boundaries took on the shocking confines of a baby’s skin and the ominous restraints of immortality.”[i]
The whole idea of God coming to this planet in the form of a baby is incredible. However, this is what Christmas is. It is God’s gift of giving us Jesus in the form of a tiny baby—a baby who would be our savior.
C. S. Lewis has written about God’s plan, “The whole thing narrows and narrows, until at last it comes down to a little point, small as the point of a spear—a Jewish girl at her prayers.” Yancey adds, “Today as I read the accounts of Jesus’ birth I tremble to think of the fate of the world resting on the responses of two rural teenagers. How many times did Mary review the angel’s words as she felt the Son of God kicking against the walls of her uterus? How many times did Joseph second-guess his own encounter with an angel—just a dream?—as he endured the hot shame of living among villagers who could plainly see the changing shape of his fiancée?”[ii]
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, described the incarnation in these words: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). The Apostle loved to write about this astounding event. Here he describes Jesus before he was born in Bethlehem. In Paul’s words Jesus is presented as God, the second member of the Trinity. What was life like for Jesus before Bethlehem? In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he tells us more:
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death —
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
The context is the need for humility in the community of the Philippian church. The need for this humility is as great today as it was that day. Paul invites us to learn to think like Christ. His thinking will produce an unselfish attitude and magnanimous actions in lives. Philip Yancey continues:
…almost no pagan author used the word humble as a compliment before Jesus. The God who came to earth came not in a raging whirlwind nor in a devouring fire. Unimaginably, the Maker of all things shrank down, down, down, so small as to become an ovum, a single fertilized egg barely visible to the naked eye, an egg that would divide and redivide until a fetus took shape, enlarging cell by cell inside a nervous teenager. Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,” marveled the poet John Donne or as the Apostle said He made himself nothing…he humbled himself and was made in human likeness.[iii]