A long time ago, in a stable far away…
Written by Milton J. Orgeron
January 1, 2018
Now that the presents are opened, and some even returned (I’ll never tell!), many people have taken the decorations down and stuffed them back in the attic or closet until next Thanksgiving, the real tree has been picked up for mulch, and even New Year’s Eve fireworks are last night’s memory, some of the real meaning for us today of the quiet earthquake of the Incarnation begins to take shape in the breaking up of the holiday mist.
Yes, Christians are, or should be, celebrating the Incarnation December 25, whatever other charming traditions they observe. All the things the secular unbelieving world ignores or mocks and would have it be any other way about Christmas are wrapped up in that word, Incarnation. Taking on of flesh. Our flesh. Starting out as a baby. Like us in all things except sin. Our sin. Jesus was not “as was supposed, the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23). His mother Mary was certainly human of the house of David. His father was not the man Joseph, godly man though he was, but the Father God. If that was not true, then we have no Savior, but just another sinful man, and are without hope in our sin. Joseph’s change of heart to go through with the wedding to Mary, after planning to divorce her for apparently being unfaithful, should be proof enough that he accepted Gabriel’s word to Mary, repeated to him in a dream (Matthew 1:18-20) that her child was conceived of the Holy Spirit, not of another man, and he and Mary named the child Jesus, as the angel directed.
Seems everyone except the religious leaders of His own people knew this child was remarkable, unique, only begotten of the Father, as some would later have revealed to them. The shepherds who hurried to His straw cradle were told this baby was Lord! All who heard the shepherds’ story wondered (Luke 2:8-20), while the shepherds went back rejoicing, and Mary tucked this and other things in her heart, and pondered over them. We should do the same, all through the year, and all the years since that angel-lit and star-lit night.
At His presentation in the Temple, eight days old, per the Mosaic Law, He was the promise kept of a lifetime of expectation by an old pious man and an old pious woman, who said this baby would be the rise and fall of many, and reveal the thoughts of many hearts (Luke 2:21-38). Jesus has continued revealing the thoughts of us all, long after the baby grew up, lived, died, rose alive bodily, and rose out of sight through a cloud to the right hand of Power, these 2,000 years and counting. What do you think of Him?
The Magi traveled far with gifts fit for a king, and presented them to a toddler, who they called the newborn King of the Jews. King Herod of Judea said “Oh?” Fortunately, the Magi and the little family received an angelic warning about the murderous, treacherous tyrant in dreams, and they had all left town by the time Herod realized it. In his rage, Herod made many baby boys the first to die for the name of Jesus, and those who unwittingly or knowingly serve our Enemy have killed many for that name in the years since (Matthew 2:1-18). Peace on Earth? Yes, but only to men of good will, upon whom His favor rests. For the martyrs, peace after Earth. For the destroyers, no peace on Earth or under the Earth.
Yes, Incarnation. God become man! “What kind of a man is this?” A man who spoke the divine name, “I AM”, responding to those who came to arrest Him, whereupon they fell on their faces until He strengthened them to submit to them putting Him in bonds and throwing Him into prison. A man who grew in subjection to His parents. A man who became hungry after fasting 40 days. A man who became so tired He fell sound asleep in a raging storm that was swamping the borrowed boat He was in. A man who told that storm, “Hush, be still!”, and the sea became glass-smooth, and then asked His shipmates what they were worried about! “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41). A man who had no house, but slept on a mountain, often in prayer all night, who had to ask for a coin to settle a dispute, having no money of His own, who had a fisherman toss in a hook and pull up a fish with a coin in its mouth that paid the Temple tax for both of them. A man who tenderly forgave broken sinners, made tax collectors His apostles, revealed Himself to some who were not His people as the One awaited by His people, most of whom would reject Him. A man whose life was not taken from Him in the several times some tried to throw Him off a cliff or stone Him, but who laid down His life of His own will, and who took up His life again in three days, who will never die again, and offers us the same promise. A man who told a cheeky outcast Samaritan woman to call the husband He knew she didn’t have, and used her to save her entire town. A man who, on trial for His life, told a Roman governor, “My kingdom is not of this world”, while in visions revealed after He rose out of sight in the cloud, angels and elders in heaven said of Him, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” and, “We give you thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign” (Revelation 11:15-17). A man whose birth made much of the world begin counting time all over again, from Year One. A man who answered questions intended to trap Him in a way that His questioners lost courage to ask Him any more questions.
Do we have the courage and humility to ask Him our questions? Are we also afraid of His answers? We should not be, though He will no doubt ask us to die to our little closed-in self-centered selves, so He can give us a new greater self, repaid a thousand-fold for whatever we leave to follow Him. And He IS still there, listening, waiting for you to call out to Him, thousands of years after the skeptics thought they had sealed His tomb and made it secure as they knew how. He is not irrelevant, not obsolete, not imaginary, not distant, not just “a dead man, Jesus, who Paul asserted to be alive” (Acts 25:19). No, but He says “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18). Jesus not only has the answers, He IS The Answer! The One who healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, hearing and speech to those deaf and mute, walked on water, forgave sins, made lepers clean, fed thousands with a little boy’s lunch, can He not heal you and lift you above your problems with grace sufficient? For more than 2,000 years and still today, “He is not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and are” (Acts 17:27-28). Christmas/Incarnation is not a past event that we have seen the end of! “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3), and He presents Himself alive and powerful even today to those who pursue Him. So seek and find Him now, today, whenever you read this, and Christmas will come not but once a year, but all year long every year! Whenever you read this, Merry Christmas!