Let’s zero in on verse 21: “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
So often you hear that this is a season of love — which it is but then isn’t every season and every day supposed be about loving each other? So often you hear that this season is so joyful, so fun, so special. And it is.
But ultimately what the Incarnation is about is God entering into the story in our realm and saving us from our sins. What sins? Not those things that are merely designated wrong by the culture you find yourself living in — which sometimes may be ill-advised things and sometimes may be just fine. In terms spiritual, in the view of God (perhaps), what is a sin (or sins) so profound that Godself had to come here in person to solve and fix?
And if something needed fixing, then why did God arrive here as a newborn baby, helpless and powerless? Why not arrive like a king or a rebel or a magician or someone with the power to order people and the world around and fix things? And even if arriving here as a baby was the thing to do, then it took a number of years to grow up and be ready to fix things and He still did not fix them with orders and clarity and a flowchart (I think there should be flowcharts) and action steps and programs.
So it seems to me that the sneaky little hook in the Christmas story is that God is saving us from the essential brokeness of this world; a world that He had created* without brokeness and called Good. (Let’s set aside how the world got broken — can we all acknowledge by glancing at a newspaper that it is broken/not perfect?) God is saving us from making our wrong choices over and over that lead to unkindness and hurt and suffering. God is saving us from hard hearts. God is saving us from sin so profound we want to shrug and say “that’s just how things are”. We don’t want to even see the broken relationships (and, perhaps, the very lack of relationships) that is the sin God has come to save us from. We want to say that God sent his son here because He loves us and then just stop and have a birthday party. (And, as the saying goes, God does love us, each of us, completely and wholely and loves us too much to leave us like this.)
Godself came to earth as vulnerable as any baby, but immediately in a network of relationship. God came as a son. And was loved and cared for and protected and taught. I can see him helping Mary, the way a toddler does, to make bread, pouring in the yeast with a shaky little hand. I can see him playing with toy tools that Joseph whittled for him and then learning to carefully measure and cut and work with wood and stone.
And all of this was to restore humans to right relationship** with God and with each other and with self not just feel good or celebrate….perhaps this restored relationship is all right here, at hand, now. Perhaps it is not yet, not quite yet. But it wasn’t for mere happiness or for just a yearly joyful season that God arrived here in flesh. It was for so much more; it was to save his people (all of us) from their sins.
FTGOG!!! Merry Christmas! Hallelujah!
*Interpret artistically, I suggest. While human art is never perfect, never flawless, God’s work is — or was — and it was good.
**Perhaps should discuss in a future blog, but think about words such as loving-kindness and law-abiding and reconciliation. Think about how self-care and care of a baby/child differs from self-indulgence or spoiling?
And note — God has not come here to show us how to be rich and powerful.