For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
– Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)
I feel tingly inside when I think about Christmas.
October may be my favorite month, but this is my favorite season.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year are filled with light and life. The scent of pine and sugar cookies dance in the air. Dogs are decked out in ridiculous Santa outfits. (Not mine. They have respectable red-and-black plaid vests with faux shearling collars). Kids belt out tunes from the church Christmas play at the top of their lungs, never quite getting the lyrics correct. People walk around with little smiles on their faces, thinking of secret goodies for loved ones tucked beneath sparking trees (real and fake). Snoopy and the Red Baron agree to a truce on the front lines.
I love it.
One of my earliest memories centers around Christmas. My dad took my brother and I out to the back steps on a cold, clear night. We could see the marks of our playtime in the thick snow. Petey the black-and-white mutt stood with us, watching. Dad pointed to the brightest star in the sky (probably the North Star, but I’m not sure) and told us how a star just like that guided the Wise Men to a town called Bethlehem, to a baby named Jesus. He told us about the gifts they gave to the baby, because He was the King.
Then, on Christmas Eve, my mom pulled a yellow cake from the oven. She pushed white rainbow-chip frosting back and forth across the top without tearing the cake (something I have yet to master) and then, gently, pierced the layers with candles. Dad lit the match. We sang, “Happy birthday, dear Jesus.”
The simplicity of those moment never fail to stir my heart. Sure, I know all about John 1 and how Jesus is part of the Trinity and has always existed, and so on the deeper level He never had a birthday. I know that the Wise Men probably arrived in Bethlehem (by way of Jerusalem) a couple of years after Jesus was born. I understand terms like hypostatic union and kenosis.
All the systematic theology in the world cannot capture the holy mystery of the Incarnation.
The prophecies and the 400 years of silence. The teenage girl and the announcement. The man who would divorce the girl and is stopped. The census. The trek to Bethlehem. The donkey. No room in the inn. Mary longing for her mother. Joseph freaking out as he’s turned into a midwife. A barn. A hush settling over the animals tucked within as the One who created them all bursts onto the scene with the wailing cries of a newborn. The lowly shepherds. The angelic choir.
The infinite Lord of creation, bound neither by space nor time, chose to lay aside His glory and come to earth in the form of a fragile baby.
I can’t get over that. I can’t explain that. The terms and the thick books don’t do it justice.
God, in flesh and blood.
The stars and the birthday cake somehow make the most sense. Tiny human beings looking to the sky, waiting for the Lord to come. Offering up what little we have, like the little drummer boy. Wanting to show, to say, how much He means to us and failing to fully express the sentiment.
God with us.
God actually with us.
Mind-blowing and heart-rending. He didn’t have to. He’s God. He could have left us to our own devices. We would have deserved that. Instead He gave us what we can never, ever even come close to deserving.