Summary: If Christmas was only a baby being born, there is the temporary joy of a new birth, but if it was God coming to the world then it is an everlasting joy that does not fade with the passing of time.
FROM THE CRADLE TO THE THRONE*
Big Idea: If Christmas was only a baby being born, there is the temporary joy of a new birth, but if it was God coming to the world then it is an everlasting joy that does not fade with the passing of time.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Colossians 1:15: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
Babies are something special. I can never forget what it was like to see my two children at their birth. That is a feeling and experience that nothing else can quite match — unless it is the birth of grandchildren. There is a special feeling each time I visit new parents in the hospital. There is wonderful warmth each time I dedicate a young child. There is just something captivating about a new life. The innocence and dependence of that little young life strikes at our emotions. We look at their small fingers. We laugh as they yawn. We are amazed as they try to walk, and we are so proud of their first spoken word. Let’s face it; babies do strange things to us. It’s amazing! You can take a perfectly mature adult and put them in front of a baby and they will do very unusual things and become very strange. They begin to talk silly. They will twist their faces into all sorts of contortions and make faces at that baby — faces they would never make to another adult — just to try to get that baby to look at them and smile. We’re hooked on babies.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons that Christmas affects us the way it does; the innocence of a new baby. The story of shepherds and wise men, stars and angels all add a special appeal to Christmas. The fascination with birth, fresh new life, innocence, and a little human being that is almost toy-like is all so marvelous.
Babies are promises from God. Hope is in the air and there are messages of joy.
But there is mystery here as well — baffling mystery. I cannot imagine what it meant for the eternal God, who created the cosmos and all the life which is in it, to become a helpless infant. It stretches the mind beyond its limits. It is easier for us to think of a child of promise in the cradle than it is for us to imagine the Christ, who is God and rules in heaven, being born into the world.
• We understand babies, but we do not understand God becoming a baby.
• We like cute, but we avoid profound mystery.
• We prefer to think of the crib rather than the cross.
• The world prefers a child born on earth to Christ’s return to earth.
Helplessness appeals to us more than omnipotence and Deity.
When the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci went to China in the 16th century, he brought samples of religious art to illustrate the Christian story. The Chinese readily adopted portraits of the nativity and baby Jesus but when he produced paintings of the crucifixion and tried to explain to them that the God-child had grown up and was executed, the people reacted with revulsion and horror. They preferred the baby Jesus to the crucified God. (“The Jesus I Never Knew”, Philip Yancey, p. 33)
It is good to enjoy the charm of Christmas, but we also have to grow up to understand the mystery of Christmas. We have to mature and understand the importance of what was really going on. We have to allow Christ to grow up as well. He cannot stay forever a baby.
In the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (a movie I could not watch in its entirety and has no redeemable value in my opinion) the main character, Ricky Bobby, a race car driver, prays as follows: