This year in our part of the world, there was a shortage of live Christmas trees. We didn’t know about this until we went out on the evening of December 19 to buy one. Some lots were closed, sold out, some had six sad trees. We had to settle this year for the first time ever, for a short tree with its top lopped off and sparse, thin bottom branches. It seemed dry too.
We are not purists who must have the perfect tree. We delight in it, decorating it together is a special event, and this year was no exception. It’s only around for about three weeks anyway.
My sister in law once had a tree lose all its needles by Christmas Day. But we have never had a tree fail to last through the first full week of January, at least. Our ugly little tree is still going strong. Decked with lights and ornament, loved and enjoyed. It’s evergreen.
The baby in the manger. We pass over the Christmas scenario quickly, pushing on toward more serious devotional thoughts once the week is over, or once Advent concludes on Christmas Day. But I think the Incarnation bears reflection every day of the year. It’s evergreen.
Imagine you have never heard about the Nativity. Imagine hearing the news that The Creator of the Universe, Almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the I AM…had been born a little human baby. What would your reaction be then?
Some key points:
1. A human newborn is helpless, weak, dependent, powerless. Jesus was fully man, submitting to all the limitations that we must, so he was fully a baby. Not a silent, wise, powerful baby. A baby. God chose to be as vulnerable as a person can be, utterly dependent on his earthly parents, at the mercy of mundane general harms, and exposed to malicious dangers arrayed against him personally.
2. The Incarnation was not symbolism. It was not a stunt, a metaphor, or an illustration.
The experience— committed to, seen through, walked, lived— was every second real. He was not performing, backstage while he performed the mundane, on stage when he performed the moments written down for us. Every minute had real significance, first because the Second Person of the Godhead had taken on flesh like ours and had submitted himself to everything we endure. But also:
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…
There was purpose embedded in every minute Jesus lived; He was not marking time or simply demonstrating. We cannot comprehend how the All-Sufficient could be in a position to learn, but we can recognize that the moments of his life lived were real and meaningful to Him, and that every second had perfect purpose.
3. I am still trying to comprehend the Incarnation. That The God of the Universe chose this way to express His Nature. This way— physical, messy, fraught with danger. Actually absurd! Think how He chose the way of service and total selflessness. He came to serve us in the most humble and humiliated manner possible.
In this way, He expressed his love and mercy toward us. He came close to us.
Here is stanza of a poem by George Herbert.
O Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
Wrapt in night’s mantle, stole into a manger;
Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,
To Man of all beasts be not thou a stranger:
Furnish & deck my soul, that thou mayst have
A better lodging than a rack or grave.