The Christmas story is truly the greatest story ever told. Yet, as glorious and exhilarating the account of the Savior’s birth is, it leaves me with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Every time I hear the recount of Christ’s appearance my guts are tied in knots.
Only one word causes all this discomfort I feel, and this one word does not even show up in the retelling of Jesus’ birth. The word is, “Why?”
Why would God have to come to this world and take on a covering of humanity? Why would the Father send his Son? Why would Emmanuel submit to this humility? Why would the God of all the universe and creation lower himself to be born in a dirty cave that housed animals? Why would the Word of God choose a sheep’s food trough as his first bed?
Even before I was a Christian, something nagged at my mind when I heard the reciting from Luke. Like the scratching of a mouse in the walls, there was something there. I could not quite nail it down, but I knew it was there. I could not see what it was, but it was there. To make matters even more complicated, these questions left me wondering why everyone would be so happy about an event like this.
I knew there was something more to the story that I could not understand. Similar to many people who are close to the Kingdom, I had questions, but no answers.
Now I know the answer, but every year the questions still come.
I ask myself all these questions, but now the answer makes me feel even worse.
Now I know that I am the answer to the questions. When my soul cries out for understanding, God answers with a single word of His own. “You!”
God took the form of a man for ME. To bring things closer to home, Jesus was born for you also.
You and I are the reason He came to do the work of the Father. But, this work was for one ultimate purpose. Jesus was destined to hang on a tree to pay a debt we never could.
This realization is what makes my heart sink. I carry a stench worse than any endured in the place of my Savior’s birth. The stench of sin that permeates my soul since birth could never be removed if that child had not been born.
God does love us, and this is how He showed his love. He sent his Son to become the sin we carry. God then poured out his wrath on his own child. He took Christ’s blood as payment for the sins you and I commit.
While I believe we could never understand the full weight and depth of the work on the cross, God gave me a peak into what he went through. I will never forget this experience.
I was watching a movie late one night, when everyone else was asleep. My wife and son were lying peacefully next to me.
The movie included a scene where a man mortally injured his nephew in a farming accident. As the man held the dying child in his arms, I could sense his helplessness in the situation. It was an accident. He had killed someone very dear to him and as he watched the bloody child slip into eternity, the man’s body was visibly wracked with pain.
I know it was just a movie, but it made me think of what I may feel like if a similar situation happened with my own son. As I looked at my sleeping child, God whispered to me in that still small voice that exposes your inner most being to the light of his truth.
He told me to try and imagine doing something like that to your child on purpose. To take your only son and intentionally put him through the worst pain imaginable. To watch as his skin is ripped from the bone, as his head is beaten with a stick, and then watch as men nailed his naked body to a rough wooden crucifix.
He told me try and take that helpless feeling I felt and turn it around to where I could save the child if I wanted to.
God could have taken his Son off the cross, but He didn’t. He could have sent his angels to save Jesus. Jesus could have taken himself off the cross. Instead God poured all his anger and fury for sin onto his child. Then God watched as his Son died naked and broken at the hands of the very people He had sent Jesus to save.
The thoughts actually made me go numb. They still do. These ideas are so foreign for me. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like.
I know God does not guilt us into following Him, but when we pray for glimpses of who He is, we should be careful of what we are asking for. I believe I can sympathize more with Peter now and cry, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
But, God’s response to my soul is the same He gave to Peter, “Do not be afraid.”
It is was then that I understood the joy Christians have at Christmas time. Christians don’t have joy because of presents under a tree. Christians don’t have joy because of family gathering for a meal.
Christians have joy at Christmas because they understand that without that baby being born in Bethlehem, there is no salvation. There is no forgiveness of sins. There is no union with God. There is no entrance into heaven.
Without the birth there is no death.
Without the death, there is no everlasting life.
Now I can rejoice with my brothers and sisters. The Savior being born means that I get to reside with Him in heaven forever.
No matter what this world can through at me, I have reward waiting that was purchased by a small child laying in a manger.
Is there anything greater to rejoice about?