Ask any pregnant woman what she expects from parenthood and you’ll get some familiar answers – nappies to change, sleepless nights and toys to buy. A predictable ‘labour of love’, but worth every minute, of course! But the baby born in Bethlehem was totally unexpected. The child who came into the world on the first Christmas Day caught everyone by surprise:
- An unmarried young virgin named Mary could never have predicted that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit.
- A humble carpenter called Joseph could never have foreseen that he would be responsible for caring for the Christ-child.
- And even the three Wise Men weren’t wise enough to predict that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem rather than a Royal Palace.
But most unexpected element of the Christmas story is that the baby born of Mary was no mere man. He was holy as well as human. He was fully divine as well as being flesh and blood. He was the child who had created the Cosmos. He was the Son of God who had come to bring revelation and rescue to the world.
- A child who created the Cosmos!
Our Bible reading from John’s Gospel helps us to get our heads around these unexpected truths. For example, it begins by telling us that this baby born in Bethlehem was no ordinary child. He was a person already present when time began. We know this because John doesn’t hesitate to call this child the “Word of God”. The baby in the manger was nothing less than the Son of God “made flesh”.
This means Jesus was the baby without a beginning. He pre-existed as a divine person well-before his human conception in the Virgin Mary’s womb. As amazing and mind-blowing as it might seem, from all eternity God the Son had existed in a loving relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit.
More than that, our Bible passage tells us quite clearly that Christ was the author of Creation - it was “through him that all things were made”. The little baby whose tiny hands would have struggled to touched the animals in the stable had once thrown the stars into space - he’d put the ‘bang’ in the Big Bang!
All this means that Jesus was truly “God with us”. By being born in Bethlehem, God’s Son had come to share in the human condition. The Creator had become a creature. Amazingly, the one who made the world with all its beauty had chosen to become a beautiful baby himself. The invisible God had become visible in the face of a human child. The king of the universe humbly set aside his majesty to become an infant in a stable.
- A baby who brought revelation and rescue!
It is immensely reassuring to think that God’s Son was willing to roll up his sleeves and get involved in life on Planet Earth. Jesus was willing to immerse himself in our world of suffering, sin and sorrow. And he did it to bring revelation and rescue.
You see, John’s Gospel tells us came to bring God’s “grace and truth” to a world in moral and spiritual darkness. Jesus brought revelation and rescue to our confused and broken world. Christ came to answer the questions of both the spiritual seeker and the repentant sinner. He came to address our most profound questions and meet our deepest need.
I assume we all know what a “selfie” is? Its when someone uses their mobile phone to take a photograph of themselves. A “selfie” is a twenty-first century self-portrait. Well, Jesus has been described as God’s selfie, God’s self-portrait for all to see. The New Testament book of Hebrews puts it this way: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways. But now he has spoken to us by his Son. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:1-3). And as Jesus himself once said; “to have seen me is to have seen the Father”.
So whenever we open the Bible to look at Jesus’ actions and listen to his words, we are encountering God for ourselves. In Christ, God graciously reveals himself to us as our holy, righteous and loving Creator. A God worthy of our total trust and our complete confidence. A Lord worthy of our loyalty and our love.
But Christ also came to bring us rescue as well as revelation. He came to offer us God’s grace as well as to show us God’s face. Because through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus would do everything necessary for us to be at peace with God.
On the cross Jesus paid the penalty for our sin - he willingly took the punishment for our every evil deed - he did everything necessary for our guilt before God to be forgiven. And by his resurrection he opened the way to eternal life for all who would follow him. As we sing in our carol “Hark the Herald Angels”, Jesus came so that “God and Sinners” could be “reconciled”.
- A gift we all need to receive!
As I finish, we’ve been reminded tonight that the child born at Bethlehem was no ordinary baby. He was the child who created the Cosmos; and he was an infant who has brought revelation and rescue to a lost world. It’s no exaggeration to say that Jesus Christ was the most precious child ever conceived, the greatest Christmas gift ever given.
But like any gift, Jesus has to be received. Our Bible reading promises that all who receive Jesus and trust in him can become children of God. If we are willing to turn and follow him, Christ can give us God’s forgiveness and friendship forever. He promises us “life to the full” - full of meaning, purpose, peace and hope.
If you have never committed your life to Jesus - or are curious about the Christian faith and want to know more - can I encourage you to attend our Alpha Course here at St.Michael’s in the New Year. Alpha is a world-famous, informal introduction to Christianity, and open to anyone who would like to attend. A flyer with further information is at the back of church – we’d love you to join us and find out more. It starts on Sunday 21st January at 6pm.
Jesus is the greatest gift this (and every) Christmas – so let us celebrate his birth with real conviction, with true faith and with great joy!