When Jesus was born on Christmas day, we saw God as we had never seen Him before. Jesus ‘wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’ was not a new picture of God but a more complete picture. Before Christmas, the Old Testament writers revealed a certain side of God’s character primarily shown as holiness. In the beginning, starting with Adam and Eve, God walked with our first parents in the garden. Adam and Eve had a close and personal relationship with God but were deceived into believing they could make their own way and be their own god. Leaving the perfect garden of God, Adam and Eve entered a world of sin and darkness. Over the next years the world became so dark that God, looking down upon the earth, was grieved at what He saw in mankind declaring, ‘every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.’ God decided to start over with Noah’s family, the only righteous family living on earth. As time went on, God called Moses up to a mountain and said, “Thou shalt not … kill, steal, commit adultery, have no other gods before me”. Through these Commandments, God tells of His standards of holiness. We find God judging and punishing those who fall short of His glory. We see a holy God who cannot be approached. We find a God who is so pure and powerful that no eye can see Him and live. Although God shows His mercy and grace and love in many ways throughout the Old Testament books, the primary way God reveals Himself is as Holy, Holy, Holy with the human race falling short of His glory.
This presentation of God changes at Christmas. For at Christmas we are led to Bethlehem and a little baby in the manger and told that this baby was none other than “Mighty God”. The child born to Joseph and Mary was Immanuel – God with us. It was at the manger where God tells us in unmistakable terms, ‘It’s OK, you can come close. By becoming small I allow you come to Me.’
Janet Oke reflecting on the Christmas story commented, “Jesus–a simple name with so much power and meaning, but on that night so long ago, the tiny baby, wrapped by Mary in swaddling clothes, waving little arms, hungrily sucking a fist, was like any other newborn baby. He was helpless and dependent, and Mary was His hope of survival, His nourishment, His very lifeline. God entrusted His most priceless gift to a very human, very young, earthly mother. Why? Because God so loved–that He gave. He relinquished His hold on His Son and placed Him in fragile human arms.”
So much for the idea that God is this judge in the heavens only interested in judging our failures. When God became one of us, He shows us He is not interested in judging us in our sin but saving us from our sin. Unwilling to rest comfortably in the heavens while losing us to our sin, God became man …. “For unto us is born in the city of David, a Savior he is Christ the Lord.”
Christmas does indeed give us a more complete picture of God. God still hates sin. God is still Holy, a God of justice who will not wink at sin but must punish it. However, with Christmas we see the other side of God, the side that loves us so. For God to enter our world in flesh tells us He was willing to satisfy His own justice by taking our sins to the cross and by dying would pay for the sins of the world. In this way, the Holy, Holy, Holy God who cannot look upon evil offers us a way to make ‘peace’ with Him and restore the personal relationship mankind once had with Him long ago in the days of our first parents.
Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.