The birth of Jesus
Joel S. Heckendorf
Crystal-like snowflakes gently cascading over a world filled with celebrations and camaraderie. A snow-globe world where everything stays in place as the music gently plays. Our view of the world at Christmas is often fantasized. Even now, you can remember the smell of the chestnuts roasting and the notes of yuletide carols.
The details of Luke chapter 2 remind us that Jesus came to a real world. “In those days, Caesar Augustus . . .” “Those days” were peppered with political scandals, assassination plots, war schemes, military drafts, taxation, and more. Would you want to come to a world like that?
Our real world isn’t much better. Jockeying for position in politics, family, or business. Misguided spirituality. Pride. Anger. Living in the past. Taxes. War. Money. All of these make for a messy world. But if all we concluded this past Christmas is that Jesus came to a messy world and our world is messy, we missed the full beauty of Christmas.
It’s not just the world that is “messed up.” It’s us. I don’t mean that generically, as if to say, “We’re all sinners.” I mean it personally. I admit that pride, anger, greed, jealousy, and envy mess me up—and you too. Even when we do something nice like signing and sending a thoughtful card or paying it forward at Starbucks, what was going on in our minds? “That was nice of me.” How quickly we get self-absorbed.
And yet, as messed up as the world is and as messed up as we are, God came. Why? There’s only one answer: love. That’s what blows me away about Christmas. Not the angels. Not the shepherds. Not the virgin birth. That Jesus came to this world shows us his incomparable, inexhaustible love.
It doesn’t have to be December 25 to marvel at that expression of love. Write on your mirror, “God came to earth for me.” Corrupt-hearted me. When we see how desperate we are, we see what a Deliverer he is. That Jesus came to this world shows us his love.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born” (Luke 2:6). I’ve yet to hear a mascot cheer, “We’re the mighty, mighty Infants!” But that’s how God came—as an infant. The God who holds the world in his hands had to be held by a teenage girl. What kind of weak God is this? Soon you’ll marvel at the strength and determination of Jesus as you watch him walk to Calvary. Those steps were only possible because God came into our world as a baby. God said, “I’m all in.” There was no turning back. How God came to this world shows his commitment.
That commitment doesn’t stop. That Jesus had a human hand shows he is committed to always hold yours. That he had human hair shows he’s committed to care for you, right down to the hairs on your head. His human feet shows he’s committed to walk with you wherever you go. That God came as a lowly human and was laid in a manger in our world shows just how committed he is to take us to his mansions where he made room for us.
Exploring the Word
1. Tell the story in your own words. Then read the account. Which details did you omit or mistakenly add?
Answers will vary. If studying in a group, split up into smaller groups and see how many different details are included in the exercise. Why do you think some details made every list and other details didn’t make any lists?
2. Why do you think this story is one of the most popular stories included in children’s Bibles?
The sentimentality of Christmas. Seeing “baby” Jesus it seems fitting and relatable for a children’s Bible.
3. “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). Why was this a “good” time for Jesus to enter the world?
Readers are encouraged to read up on their history of the time. While we can never fully understand God’s timing, the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) when Jesus was born would allow for the faster spread of the gospel. It also may have contributed to a longing for a Messiah, even though the people were looking more for an earthly Messiah than a spiritual one.
4. God came to earth in other ways. List them. Why is this one different?
God revealed himself in many different ways: a voice, visions, dreams, pillar of fire/cloud, a human body, whirlwind, whisper, casting of lots, etc. By becoming human, not only was it a permanent revelation (as Jesus still is true God and true man), it was the fullest revelation of who God is. See John 1:18: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.
This is the third article in a 10-part series on the top ten stories included in children’s Bibles and how they apply to our lives today. Find answers online after Feb. 5 at wels.net/forwardinchrist.
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Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 103, Number 02
Issue: February 2016
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