Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
When you have a baby, your entire life gets flipped upside down. There isn’t one thing that doesn’t change. Your friends and family all try to warn you this is going to happen. Sage advice such as “get your sleep now, ’cause you won’t after the baby gets here!” And that sage advice never stops coming over your parenting journey either, much like a dripping tap or a leaking faucet! Do this, don’t do that, parent your kids this way not that way and so on and so on. But nothing can really prepare you for parenthood. It’s one of those things in life you have to experience first hand for yourself. But there is that one thing that is common for every parent on earth: your world is forever changed!
When we go back in time, around 2000 years or so, who would have thought that everything would be changed, just because a little baby boy was born. One particular child of note. But the statistics tell us that there are 4.3 babies born every second on planet earth. 259 born per minute. 372,960 born every day. With that many new people coming into planet earth, surely we would have people of note. Incredible artists and musicians that make the world a more beautiful place. Innovations and technologies that change life for the better. Amazing inventors, improving life as we know it. Electricity. GPS navigation. Hydraulics. Smartphones. There have been many brilliant people over our history. But very, very few people born can affect all of life as a whole at the same time. But one little boy did exactly that.
“And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The voice of an angel spoke to a man named Joseph in a dream. Most guys I know would simply have shrugged that dream off and chocked it up to something they ate the night before. After all, the dream was talking about the miraculous conception of a baby that Joseph had no part at all in making. In fact, Joseph had just recently found out that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant. All he knew was that he wasn’t the baby daddy! He hadn’t touched her. He was fully prepared to go on Jerry Springer and beat the paternity test! Yet in the midst of the craziness of life, God assured Joseph that everything was going to be alright. “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” This baby will be different. He will be unlike any baby born before or since! Not only did He change Mary’s life and Joseph’s life, this baby also changed the world. Forever.
A husband was out doing some last minute Christmas shopping for his wife at the mall. He hurriedly went around the store, picking up this and looking at that. Glancing at his watch, he nervously settled on a big bottle of expensive perfume. As he went to pay for it, the clerk said “I’ll bet your wife will be surprised to get this!” “She sure will,” replied the man. “She’s expecting a trip to Hawaii!”
Seldom in life are surprises a good thing. You know, all those unexpected things: a flat tire on Christmas Eve. Food poisoning from the office party egg nog you should have passed up. Tearing your favourite St. Bernard-themed Christmas sweater that beloved Auntie Myrtle bought you. Yet at Christmas, the greatest surprise of all has come and it is a very good thing. Think of what Mary’s face looked like when the Angel Gabriel came to her to tell her that she was the chosen one. She would be the person that the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he wrote “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Now that’s what I call an unexpected surprise!
When you read through the Old Testament in the Bible, there is a lot to be said about God being with His people. In fact there was a specific place the Lord would dwell. In the book of Kings it describes the Temple, the very first “House of the Lord.” King David wanted to build it but it was up to his son Solomon to do it. And build he did. A glorious building of costly stone, aromatic cedar wood from Lebanon, intricate carvings of angels and palm trees and open flowers, all of which were overlaid with pure gold. It must have been an amazing and breathtaking sight! Nevertheless, the Temple did not suffice within itself to contain the uncontainable God. As the Scriptures say “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “’Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest?” (Acts 7:48-49).
And yet, with her consent, the womb of the Virgin Mary does what the Temple in all of its awesome splendour could not do. There, she contains the uncontainable God. This mystery of mysteries happens, for real, in everyday life, in the fullness of time. The unthinkable happens. God becomes flesh and dwells among us. Infinity dwells in infancy. Human history would never be the same again. The entire world is flipped upside down because of a tiny baby. God who is infinite without beginning and the origin of everyone, now begins; now has an origin. God becomes one of us. And He does so out of His great love and desire to be with and restore His fallen creatures.
And this is the crux of the matter, as it were. Baby Jesus is born for this exact reason: to set us free from sin and death. He is born to heal our hurts and brokenness. He is born into life in order that He might destroy death. He is born for you and for me. For our forgiveness, life and salvation. From the rough wood of the manger to the rough wood of the cross, this newborn baby was born to save all of humanity. And save He did! For God became man that we might become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Pet1.4). Instead of a world that is only wracked with pain, suffering, grief and darkness, we now know a beautiful world of help, relief and the light of God’s Heavenly Kingdom. As we are Baptized, as we receive Holy Communion, our Lord continues to draw us to Himself to become partakers of all the amazing goodness God became man to give to us.
It is this Gospel message that fills our hearts with hope, peace, joy and love in this Christmas season. The incarnation, God becoming flesh and dwelling among us is what Christmas is all about. This is the foundation. This is the true “reason for the season.” The twinkling lights, the carolling, the Turkey Dinner and punkin’ pie, they are all just nice bonuses! Not to mention the presents that we all look forward to. But when we see that the real crux of Christmas is Jesus, born in Bethlehem to set us free, we realize that we have already been given the most precious gift and present we can ever hope to receive! For behold, the ancient prophecy is fulfilled. The Virgin has conceived and born a Son. Jesus. The Christ. Emmanuel. God with us. Now and forever more. Amen! Merry Christmas!