Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Baby Jesus

There are three reactions in the Bible to the coming of the baby Jesus that we need to pay particular attention to, and they aren't the three that you might naturally think of. Sure, it's easy to talk about the wise men or the shepherds or even Herod, who killed a lot of babies while trying to kill this one, but I'm not talking about those who merely heard of the baby Jesus; I'm talking about those who were there. Those with first-hand, direct, straightforward knowledge of the coming child.

The first reaction is that of John the Baptist. And you might be thinking that John isn't mentioned anywhere in the Christmas story, that we don't see him until much later - when he is baptizing down by the river and Jesus comes to be baptized. But actually, John was the first person with first-hand knowledge of the fullness of Jesus. He is the baby in Elizabeth's womb who leaped for joy when Mary arrived. He recognized Jesus right away, though neither had been fully formed, and he couldn't wait for what was to come. 

The second reaction is that of Mary, who burst into a song about how much God loves her when she realized that what the angel had told her was true. She was about to play a big part in God's huge story, and it was almost too much for her peasant heart to fathom. She spends the rest of the pregnancy, and most of Jesus's life, "treasuring...things in her heart," these things meaning so much more to her because of the role that she knew she played in all of it. Because of how deeply she knew God's love for her, from the very first spark of life in her virgin womb. 

And the third reaction is that of the innkeeper, who had no room at the inn for even one more small (and growing) family. Certainly, he saw how very pregnant Mary was. By the time they reached the inn, she might have already been showing signs of labor. She was probably breathing heavily, leaking fluids, doubled over with contractions, the whole bit. And on one hand, we praise the innkeeper for finding some room for them where there seemed to be no room, but honestly...how do you not find better accommodations for an obviously-pregnant, clearly-in-labor young woman who has just spent yet another day traveling all day? Even if there's nothing at all special about her baby, she's still about to have a baby. And isn't that something?

You see, in the first case, John knew fully and instantly who Jesus was and what He meant. In the second, Mary understood God's deep and abiding love in a developing revelation and ongoing story. And in the third, the innkeeper saw only in part...and missed it entirely. 

Sadly, while Christmas should bring into our hearts the reactions of John and Mary, too many of us will spend this Christmas like the innkeeper - making some room, but nothing special, for Jesus. Seeing in part...and missing it entirely. 

It's hard this side of Heaven...and this side of the Cross...to understand the fullness of Jesus. To understand what He meant to a people who had been waiting for this very moment for their entire history. As Christians, we have Him. We've always had Him. We haven't had to have the same kind of hope and anticipation, so we miss out on what it means that God came in flesh. Of course God came in flesh; we worship in remembrance of that every week. 

But the incarnation...the incarnation is something incredible. Something that hadn't been done since the very beginning when God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. God came, He came in the fullness of flesh, to walk with us once more and to make us an integral part of the story that He is telling. We, like Mary, have become pregnant with Christ, carrying Him into all the world, and we don't even know it. We don't even understand it. 

Some baby, sure. Some kind of child. Something is happening, but...

But nothing. But. nothing. We find room in our Christmas for Jesus, some quiet little corner where we can tuck Him away and go and look and know that He's there, some cozy little place in the barn where there's at least a little hay to keep Him warm, but we ought to be leaping for joy and treasuring these things in our hearts. We ought to be rejoicing and breaking out in song. We ought to be humbled and prayerful and thankful for the presence of God among us. Immanuel. God with us. 

We ought to be John. We ought to be Mary. We ought to be the people, of all people, who "get" Christmas. Who treasure Christmas. Who believe, truly believe, in Christmas. 

Yet too many of us spend the season as innkeepers, with no room at all except for the very little we can make for Him. 

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