It’s that time of year again. The stores and shopping malls are packed with people. The calendar is filling up with activities for each member of the family. The list of things to do is longer than the amount of time in which to do them. With all of the hustle and bustle, sometimes we just want to ask, “Why all this fuss about Christmas?”
According to the children’s song, “Away in a Manger,” Jesus himself—the reason for the season—didn’t even make a fuss. “The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes,” goes the little song. Truly this was a strange sight…a baby that didn’t cry! Many a parent probably wishes that they had given birth to this special child! What’s so special about Jesus?
The Gospel of Luke gives us the most information about the birth of this special child and tells us what the fuss is all about. In Luke 1:31-32, the angel Gabriel says this to Mary: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” This woman—well, really a girl—was going to give birth to the Son of the Most High! The heart of God’s own son would beat inside the body of a human. The foot of the Savior would kick against the belly of Mary (I wonder if she and Joseph made jokes about Jesus being a great soccer player?). Jesus was God in the flesh.
While Luke tells us about the birth of Jesus, perhaps the Gospel of John gives the best birth narrative in 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The Word. Who exactly is “the Word”? John 1:1 explains who “the Word” is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So the Word is God. And the Word became flesh…through Jesus. That same baby who kicked against his mother’s belly. That same little boy who tarried in the Temple and got lost from his parents (Luke 2:41-49). That same child “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and humanity” (Luke 2:52). This boy…was God.
Now that is something to make a fuss about! God inhabited humanity! He “became flesh.” And he did it through a simple girl named Mary. He was born and laid in a manger—a feeding trough for animals. What kind of God allows his one and only Son to be born in a stable among the animals? What kind of God chooses to subject himself to all of the trials and tribulations of life here on earth? The kind of God that becomes incarnate (in the flesh) is the kind of God that does not want to remain distant. He is the kind of God that shows us that he will be alongside us in our suffering because he himself experienced life on earth. God is like the coach who gets out and runs lines with his players because he doesn’t want to ask them to do something that he wouldn’t do himself.
While there is often great theology in hymns, I am going to disagree with the theology in “Away in a Manger.” Knowing that Jesus became flesh, I daresay that he did cry. He did need his mother to change his dirty diaper. And he did bleed when he skinned his knee. But that does not make him less God. In fact, it makes him more God. He did not have special circumstances that removed him from humanity, but rather, he lived out his divinity in human form. This is certainly something to make a fuss about.
This season that celebrates Christ’s birth that night long ago reminds us of the remarkable anomaly of God in flesh. Though frustration with all of the bustle with the holiday may cause us to throw up our hands and ask what the fuss is all about when it comes to Christmas, we truly have reason to celebrate when God became man.