Some things hide in plain sight. Others hide behind fancy names. And still others hide among the over-decorated trappings of tradition dressed up as garish holiday cheer. Sometimes it’s all three. These are the lessons of Christmas.
The truth about Christmas is that God became a man. The transcendent Creator of the Universe, the One who sits outside his creation submerged himself in the work of his hands. The Playwright walked on stage during the show. The Coach became a player. The King became a commoner.
He wasn’t a Poser, pretending to be something other than what he was: He was born, and he grew; he came of age and took his place among us; he embraced his purpose and fulfilled it completely. He wasn’t slumming among us like some impostor: He laughed, he cried, he sweat. When we struck him, he bled. When we pierced him, he died.
Something as grand and wonderful as Christmas certainly has many sub-themes: peace on earth, goodwill toward men, hope for tomorrow, salvation for all, and the fulfillment of promise. We should listen to each line of the symphony and enjoy the beauty of each one. Put them all together than they point to the grand melody, that God became man.
When God became man, he demonstrated how to be human. His life, in the person of Jesus Christ, is the model of all lives, everywhere and in every time. Men from every age can look to Jesus’ example. Women from every culture can discover fullness in him. God did not cheat the game by walking through life untouched by the trouble we face. He faced the same troubles we have faced, and indeed more, because to his trouble was added unique rejection of all mankind toward him. Humanity had never seen his type before, and the one encounter between God and humanity resulted in our utter rejection of him, but he responded with un-rejectable love.
You can have your shepherds, wise men, angels and mangers. For me, the grandeur of Christmas is captured in the gospel, which places its cards on the table right from the start:
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14)
John tells us plainly, “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.” (John 1: 18)
What does God look like? He looks like Jesus. The Father spoke himself in Jesus. The countless words of every generation, arrayed in questions, arguments, songs and poems have been answered in the single Word, Jesus. The same Word that spoke creation into being speaks life into us today.
When God became man, it looked like Jesus, and it still does. If we aspire to the presence of God in our everyday, we are really aspiring to Jesus. Because he is human we have the hope of his likeness. Because he is God, we have the certainty of his promise. All other messages flow from the Word made flesh. He was announced as Emmanuel, and he continues to reveal himself as such: God is forever with us because he has forever pitched his tent in the person of Jesus, the true lesson of Christmas.