Babies are something special. I can never forget what it was like to see my two girls 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 baptize 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 cuteness 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. There 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 likes to think about a child born on earth rather than Christ’s return to earth. Somehow, his helplessness appeals to us more than his omnipotence and Deity.
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. So, the first point is that we need to grow up in our faith so that: We realize who Christ is. The Bible encourages us to “in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Christmas is a wonderful thing. It is a good beginning. But at some point in time we have to let Jesus out of the cradle. We have to allow him to grow up, and we must grow up with him. We have to go from thinking of him as a baby and understand that he is God who came and wrapped himself in human flesh for a time. We have to go from wonder to worship. We have to understand that there is more to the story than a baby in the hay. In that cradle lay the hope of the ages. In that stall was the salvation of the world. The story about a child being born is true and it is wonderful, but we have to go beyond being charmed by it and be changed by it. We have to see beyond the tradition and be transformed. We have to go beyond the admiration of a child to the adoration of a Savior. You do not truly understand Christmas until you find yourself on your knees in worship. 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. As the Bible says, we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). This, then, is truly Good News. It is real hope, and life can be eternally different.