Think of it: the purely perfect, most holy, Eternal Master of the universe penetrated this sinful world enveloped in human flesh. Creator entered creation. The All-Powerful One became a helpless babe who needed nourishment in the arms of a mother.
God did not win the destiny for Abraham’s offspring through the might of armies or by the securing of Israel’s borders—but by the birth of a baby. Such a fragile thread from which to hang the heavy hopes and dreams of a people! Yet how consistent it was with God’s promises. So consistent that saintly Simeon could clearly recognize the fulfillment of that promise and exclaim, Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Simeon declared that in the birth of this baby, salvation was incarnate. The merging of eternity with time and space was not only the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. It was—He was—the certain hope for all humanity. For without Him, there could be no hope of redemption. Yet our joy at the Savior’s birth need not be restrained by the fact that He gave up everything because of our sinful condition. Guilt on that account should never diminish our joy. Our sin did not tear Christ from the heavens, nor did He grudgingly thrust Himself into this dark world. In Yeshua (Jesus), God exercised His attributes to His own glory. God was motivated by His gracious and loving nature.
God came to those who were poor and persecuted and humiliated. Yet He was worshiped and adored by mighty men who traveled a great distance to pay homage to this baby Jew.
The Incarnation was not a disguise for God to masquerade as a human being. The Incarnation was no mere guise of vulnerability. Yeshua could suffer, could feel pain, could feel all human emotions. He could and did die for our sins, and only through the Incarnation could He rise from the dead. The Nativity was the first step to Calvary. Regarding the cross, Yeshua Himself said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).
If Jesus came to die, why did He come as a baby? Why didn’t God choose to send a fully grown Messiah into the world? After all, He could have had the prophets predict that the Messiah would miraculously materialize in the Temple one day.
One answer is, if Jesus had not experienced all that is common to human life, His death would have had a diminished meaning. Had He appeared as a Man/God for the purpose of dying, He would have missed the impact of death and the separation.
Also, He needed to be examined and seen for His perfection. Just as the Passover lamb had to be examined for a period of time before it was deemed acceptable, so the Lamb of God was subject to scrutiny over a period of time that it might be declared, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 5:12).
A third reason is that Jesus had to experience infancy and childhood in order to be truly human. We all come into the world helpless, depending on others to meet our most basic needs. God did not turn from those humble human beginnings. He used them as a platform from which to demonstrate that humility is a quality to be emulated, not despised. And because God was willing to be incarnate, the human race was able to do the unthinkable … to actually see God and not perish.
It is because of the Incarnation, the Nativity, that human beings could look into the face of God and live. Yeshua is as much of God as we will ever see, but He is God indeed. And because of Jesus, man could see God, could touch God, could serve God, could wash the feet of God … and could witness God’s anguish over humanity.
Therefore, our response must be awe. We are astonished to realize that He who transcends all condescends to become one of us.
The otherness of God is seen nowhere more clearly than in His choice to become like us. The unfathomableness of God is nowhere so deep as in the length and depth to which He brought Himself to be understood by His creation.
And so we should celebrate His Nativity. It’s true that we do not know the particular date of the event. And we might reject many of the trappings—after all, some of them seem to compete for our attention and draw us away from the babe rather than bring us to adore Him. Still, it is important to memorialize the fact that God became man. We need to come humbly before Him with a sense of wonderment and joy, balanced with awe. We need to recall the Nativity as a reminder that grasping for power, position or personal recognition is the antithesis of Yeshua’s Advent.
And as we contemplate His birth, we meditate on that baby as the fulfillment of promise, who yet has promises that remain to be fulfilled. No longer a baby, the Incarnate God is in heaven to intercede for us … but one day He will intercede again in history.
And as we think of the second coming of Christ, the Incarnation reminds us that the One whose appearing we love is not a disembodied spirit, a ghost or an angelic being. It is the person of Jesus who will come, God and yet man, in the Father’s chosen time and place. Therefore, we not only celebrate, but we also anticipate. We anticipate the day that God will once again penetrate not merely our hearts—for He did that to each of us who identify with the Savior—but the day when He will once more penetrate this dark world with His corporeal presence. His Light will not lie quietly in a manger but will flash across the sky in a blaze of glory, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Yeshua, Jesus, is Lord.