After hearing the Christmas story over and over, year after year, its true meaning and impact may fade against the backdrop of today’s culture. Yet, if we think about it, God’s willingness to become one of us is the greatest act of humility and love in all of history. In John’s Gospel we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Here we have God the Father, creator of all that exists, creator of the millions of galaxies and the billions of stars whose distance is measured in light years. Here we have God who created the atom and the molecule whose size is measured in nanometers – that’s one billionth of a meter. This God, who created the human person with a body, soul, and mind, different from all other creatures, became one of his created in order to free each of us from our sins and the world from its bondage to sin – to reconcile us to him and one another.
Father William Barry, in his book, A Friendship Like No Other, says, “God took humanity seriously enough to become one of us, and we do God no service if we downplay what God has done in becoming human.”
It seems like it is easier for us to view Jesus in his divinity than it is for us to accept fully his humanity. But God in Jesus was a real human person, born of Mary in the humblest of circumstances. He had to be toilet trained, learn a language and be raised from childhood to an adult just as we all have been. He evidently followed his earthly father, Joseph, in the trade of being a carpenter, for the people of Nazareth were later to ask, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:3)
After assuming his public ministry, the leaders of his own religion rejected him and handed him over to the Romans to die a horrible human death. We can be sure that Jesus’ humanity felt the sting of the whip and the piercing pain of the nails. God is no stranger to suffering. God in Jesus knows what human life is like from the inside. His desire for friendship, to dwell with us and in us knows no bounds.
Genesis tells us we were created in the image of God, but from the very beginning, we have failed to live up to that expectation. God had to show us how to be his image by becoming one of us. After showing us by his example, he then sent us the Holy Spirit to live in us and enable us to imitate his image – to be his presence and bring his presence to the people and circumstances of our lives.
A cobbler does not become a shoe, a cabinet maker does not become a cabinet, but God the Father and creator of all that exists became one of us. Little wonder that history’s calendar is measured in terms of before and after this event.
Let us celebrate the birth of Jesus for what it is – the greatest act of humility and love in all of history.