When we get by everything else attached to Christmas (and there is a lot to get by!), it finally all comes down to the incarnation. God became flesh. God went from being among us to being one of us. The second Person of the holy Trinity became a human being, complete with amino acids, sinew, muscle, synapses, proteins, and tears. C.S. Lewis in his book Miracles calls it “the Grand Miracle” and captures its significance with the words, “If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the earth.”
In the world of religions, only Christianity has the incarnation as the means by which humanity’s predicament with God is resolved. All other religions have humanity trying – sometimes desperately – to get to God. Only in Christianity does the Creator Himself come down and become human to save humanity. The Word that spoke creation into being enters His creation to redeem it.
Many analogies have been tried to help us understand the incarnation. It’s like a healthy person entering a leper colony for the sake of healing. It’s like an anthropologist assuming the language, dress, and customs of a primitive culture to earn understanding and trust. It’s like a zoologist living with an endangered species, assuming their behaviors, to save them from extinction. The analogies all limp simply because there has never been anything like the incarnation. Jesus Christ did not just become like us. He became one of us, a human being in every way, except sin.
Each Christmas we preachers look for a fresh nuance to the incarnation. This Christmas I am struck by the vulnerability of our incarnate God. Certainly the distance from way up there to way down here is enhanced when one considers how vulnerable God became in the God-man Jesus Christ. He could have come as an adult, but he comes as an infant. He is completely dependent, homeless, threatened, and a refugee. This is how He comes. It is amazing.
Thornton Wilder has a little play in which the donkey bearing Mary and the infant Jesus on the way to Egypt asks, “Why should this boy survive when all the others are dying in Bethlehem?” Mary reminds the donkey who her child is and wonders how he could have so quickly forgotten. We can forget, too – that the one on the donkey and the one being beaten and the one being crucified is the Son of God.
And the same can be said for the vulnerability of the Father. The Son in whom He was so well pleased became the Son whom He sacrificed for the sins of the world. Any parent who has watched their child die knows this vulnerability. Imagine the vulnerability of a parent who sends their child to death.
Whether the Father or the Son, love made them vulnerable. So deep was the Father’s love that He gave His Son. So deep was the Son’s love that He went willingly to do what only He could do. It makes me wonder where my love for God and for others might make me vulnerable. Where am I willing to enter the needs of others and risk being criticized, humiliated, or worse? Where in the name of Jesus can I “pick up a cross” for others and follow Him in His vulnerability?
When God became human, God became vulnerable. Love made it happen. It wasn’t cheap. It turns out Christmas can be very expensive.