“. . . God with us.” Matthew 1:23
Think of the images we are surrounded by this time of year – flying reindeer, happy elves, jolly ole Saint Nicks fill the malls with a hearty Ho Ho Ho. There are choirs, carols, choruses singing “Winter Wonderland,” “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The airwaves shoot out images of happy families dining around a table full of food, warmed by the fireplace, the glow of the light spills out through the window of the colonial house across a snow drift in the front yard. It’s an evening of peace and happiness. In the background the music plays “Silent Night, Holy Night.” The emotions we so often associate with the holidays are joyful, merry, wishful. What’s missing from this season? We are not disturbed.
We will never feel the impact of what happened in Bethlehem until we are shocked and disturbed by it. The Almighty came down to be born from Mary’s Holy Spirit fertilized womb – wet, bloody, screaming and naked, the same way every one of us was born. Truly, that was as much of God as the human eye could behold. This is the way God wanted it, He doesn’t ask for our approval or input. He didn’t hire a PR firm to make Him more appealing. God does exactly what He wants, the way He wants, in ways which bring Him the most glory.
You can forget the pleasant nativities with Jesus neatly covered, laying securely in a crib without the stench and stains of the animals who drank from the trough where Jesus lay. Like all infants, Jesus had bodily functions He couldn’t control and Mary had to clean Him. Forget the church paintings of Jesus on the cross, neatly dressed in a loin cloth. No, He hung there as naked as the day He was born. Intentionally stripped of every human dignity, left with nothing but naked, bloody, human flesh.
The gospel is the strange and shocking story of God laying aside His majestic robes and coming down to be Immanuel God with us. He undressed all the way, taking on the form of servant, being made in the likeness of man, stripped, naked, exposed. If the Christmas story doesn’t confuse or disturb you, then it’s likely you’ve heard it so often that you have become numb to it, or, you never really heard it at all.
Sit with the real Christmas story, does it make you uncomfortable? Does it challenge your assumptions about the way you have always thought about the birth of Jesus? For a few moments experience the realness of Immanuel.