This is the first week of advent, the coming of the Christmas season. The season of the coming of the Jewish Messiah. The season of the birth of the savior of the world. The season of the the celebration of God breaking into the world in a human body. The season of the mystery of the Word became flesh.
Albert Einstein once said we can live our lives in one of two ways. We can go through our lives as if nothing is a miracle. Or we can live our lives like EVERYTHING is a miracle. I don’t know how a man (or a woman) can look at his just born child and not know that he’s seeing a miracle. I don’t know how we as a race can’t look at the world we live on in this massive ever expanding universe and not know that us just being is a miracle, that indeed it is wondrous. I don’t know how I’m supposed to go from Phoenix, Arizona, wondering at the majesty to be observed in that desert landscape with all those gorgeous mountains and beautiful formations, back to my home near the Chesapeake Bay all in a matter of hours and not be struck with wonder at the miracles of creation and all that is.
We live in a world of wonder. We may not live in a state of wonder, but we should. We live in a world of sparrows and a world of blue whales. We live in a world of mountain tops and a world of valleys. A world of sunshine and white sand, a world of freezing temperatures and falling snow. We live in a world of adorable kittens and a world of ferocious lions. A world of beauty. A world of joy. A world of wonder.
Yet something about our broken world keeps us from appreciating the wonder all around us. As children we live in awe of the most simple things – the rolling penny, the skipping rock, the fish on the hook, the empty box. But as we grow older, we lose that sense of wonder. We become numb to all that is wondrous around us, we just go through life trudging through one day after another.
We lose our appreciation for the wonders of creation. It’s no wonder then, really, that we either 1). Take for granted or 2). Simply don’t believe the greatest wonder, the greatest miracle that ever was – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….” John 1:14 ESV.
In this season of advent we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ…the Word became flesh. We know, at least we profess that we know, that Jesus was fully God, and fully human. Most Christians have no qualms with the divinity of Christ. We can give two amens and a hallelujah to the statement that yes, Jesus was fully God.
But to say Jesus was fully human…we really wonder if it’s really true. . We wonder HOW that can be. Oh, we can say the words alright. But there’s kind of that wink wink with it. “Yeah, Jesus is human just like me…wink wink.” We just can’t wrap our minds around it.
We like the thought of Jesus being fully God. It gives us room for separation from the ideas of Jesus. So…we are called as Christians to live our neighbors and pray for our enemies. We are called to forgive others as we would want to be forgiven. We are called to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus being fully God gives us our “out” on all these hard teachings. Jesus could do that, but hey He’s God, right. Nobody can be perfect.
But if Jesus was really fully human, now that’s a challenge. Nobody can be perfect, except Jesus did live that perfect, sinless life. We tell ourselves that being sinful is simply a part of being human. But now, if we believe Jesus was fully human, just as human as you, that challenges that assumption. If Jesus was fully human, yet He lived a perfectly sinless life, then our sin natures are no longer excused as just a part of our humanity. If Jesus was fully human, fully incarnate, then maybe our assumption that being sinful just is a part of being human…is simply wrong. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not central to our being.
Let me say this – Christmas is not a simply God dressing up like a human being being. Jesus was not God “in costume” pretending to be one of us. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (with God ALL things are possible), born of the Virgin Mary. But He was indeed fully human. He was born into our broken world of violence and vengeance. From the moment He was born, He had death squads sent to kill Him. He started His ministry, and people from His own hometown tried to kill Him. He was the subject of murder plots, rumors, and accusations. We know He was crucified by our broken system of blame and accusation. But ultimately, we also know that His murder was overturned by the Father on Easter Sunday, vindicating His Way of radical forgiveness all the way through death on a crucifix.
Remember that when Jesus started His ministry, the first thing He did was get baptized. He was baptized for the repentance of sins, yet He had no personal sin. So why was He baptized?? Because He did not separate Himself from us. He joined with us in our broken world. He became part of a race with enormous systemic sin, He became part of our sinful world. He did not simply point His finger at us and say “All you sinners need to repent.” No, He joined with us, and instead said “We have a problem.” And so He led the way in being baptized for the repentance of our sins. He led us into the journey to right relationship with God.
Imagine you travel back in time to a village in Galilee over 2000 years ago. Someone asks you to babysit 10 2 year old boys (oh the horror!) for a couple of hours. Then they tell you one of them is Jesus. Can you pick Him out? You can’t tell, can you. Guess what? He doesn’t know either. Fully human.
Imagine you’ve skipped forward about 30 years. Now you see Jesus sitting by the well at Sychar. “Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” John 4:6 ESV. So here we see, Jesus is tired. He walked on water once but He was frequently….tired. He can walk on water but now He’s tired. He can turn waster into wine but now He’s thirsty. He can feed the 5000 but now He’s…hungry.
There are times in the Jesus narrative when the divinity of Christ pops out like a sign. But He lived everyday…fully human. He knew sorrows. He knew tears. He knew pain.
Then we have Jesus dying. He doesn’t die joyously like the Greek philosopher Socrates. He doesn’t see His body as a cage to be freed from. He is Jewish, not a Greek philosopher. He sees His body as good. He sees His created being as good. He goes to His death with tears. With dread. He asks the Father to find another way – “And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” Mark 14:36 ESV.
Whatever it means for a human being to die, God has felt it. Whatever it means for a human being to suffer, God has felt it. We live in a world with pain and suffering. But God has not exempted Himself from the pain and suffering, He came and joined us in our pain and suffering. He’s a part of our world of blame and shame, accusation and suffering. But He comes back in His resurrection not with a word of vengeance but words of peace. If advent, if Christmas is about anything at all, it us about the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world. He comes to us and shows us what the sinless life looks like, then challenges us to follow – “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 ESV.
Don’t miss out on the wonder of our world. And never forget the greatest wonder them all – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
Luke 2:15-19 ESV
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 ESV