For Christ is not only God-like, He is God in human flesh. [Colossians 2:9 (NLV)]

He said, “The young woman, who has never had a man, will give birth to a Son. They will give Him the name Immanuel. This means God with us.” [Matthew 1:23 (NLV)]

IMG_1160webI look at an artist’s rendition of the baby Jesus on a Christmas card I just received and then consider the nativity scene on the table, the illustrations in our Christmas books and the many portrayals of Jesus in art. I’m struck by the inaccuracy of them all. While the baby was miraculously conceived, he was not miraculously transported into this world. He came the way we all did and childbirth is a messy business. When it occurs in a manure-filled stable and a feed trough is the crib, it is even messier. Babies cry and nurse and burp and spit up and even the baby Jesus pooped and peed. Considering the setting, with no women relatives or a midwife present, I doubt that things were peaceful and calm that night for the frightened young Mary or her infant boy.

If there is anything messier than childbirth, it is little boys. Without a doubt, young Jesus skinned his knees and got splinters when he helped in the carpentry shop. Like any child, He had to learn to walk and talk and read and write. His boy’s face got dirty, his nose got runny, his tummy got upset, and his voice changed when he entered adolescence. He may have played the First Century equivalent of stick ball in the street and Mary might have found a frog in the pocket of his robe. Maybe the neighborhood boys bullied him, saying “Let’s go pick on Jesus, he’ll just turn the other cheek!” As He grew up, Jesus probably stubbed his toes, experienced a toothache or two, got bug bites, and developed calluses on his hands. Our Lord experienced hunger and thirst, expectation and disappointment, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, temptation and love, rejection, anger, and pain. Jesus was God, but God with skin on—skin that blistered, bruised, burned and bled.

While the gospels give us a record of Jesus’ birth, there is only one brief mention of his boyhood before jumping to his adult ministry, so we really know very little about his life until he was in his thirties. We think of Jesus as the promised Messiah and our savior, but we tend to forget that in his person God took on the form of a human being—and all that humanity includes. Many depictions of Jesus show a halo and He’s always neat and clean. If He’d had a visible halo, I imagine the world might have taken more notice of Him and I seriously doubt that anything in the 1st Century was ever neat and clean. In our minds, we tend to have a sanitized version of Jesus; let us never forget that our Lord came into this world, lived, suffered and died as a real man. The difference between us and Jesus, however, is that He managed to do it all without sin.

This Christmas, let us remember that God put aside his heavenly glory and humbled himself by becoming human. The Son of God became the servant of man; the Prince of Peace became the sacrificial lamb. The divine Jesus put on skin and experienced life and death as a mortal just to save us. Thank you, God, for our Christmas gift.

The first gift of Christmas was love. A parent’s love. Pure as the first snows of Christmas. For God so loved His children that He sent His son, that we might someday return to Him. [From “The Christmas Box” by Richard Paul Evans]

Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God. He put aside everything that belonged to Him and made Himself the same as a servant who is owned by someone. He became human by being born as a man. After He became a man, He gave up His important place and obeyed by dying on a cross. [Philippians 2:6-8 (NLV)]

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