The entire Christmas story is surprising. Frederick Buechner once described the incarnation as “a kind of vast joke whereby the creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers”. He concludes, “Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.”
Writing on the post-Christian culture of the West, Frederica Mathewes-Green makes a poignant observation: “We grew up with the Jesus story, until we outgrew it. The last day we walked out of Sunday School may be the last day we seriously engaged this faith.” Yet, compared with living a secularized entertain-me now life that is so prevalent amongst suburbia America, the Christian faith requires more intellectual seriousness (not less), more capacity for cultivating wonder and awe in life (not less), more aptitude for joy (not less), and more willingness to live into our full humanity (not less) because of the implications of the incarnation.
The Christian faith is intellectually rigorous, demanding on the affections, and practically challenging. It requires a response from the head, the heart, and the hands. Do you think that the God who meets us in the manger and the cross, would let us simply coast through life without asking hard questions, without living sacrificially, or without having our hearts deeply stirred by the things of God? In this way, the claims of Christ are always pushing us to exert more influence on our lives than we are (typically) willing to give. Pause to consider the manger. Pause to consider the Son of God in diapers. And then think about how congruent and consistent the teachings of Jesus really are which call for our total allegiance to his person and cause. If the Son of God was truly born in a manger, if God has done everything in his power to meet me with love in my broken humanity, then perhaps this is a God worthy of my life and worship.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We cannot approach the manger of the Christ child in the same way we approach the cradle of another child. Rather, when we go to his manger, something happens, and we cannot leave it again unless we have been judged or redeemed. Here we must either collapse or know the mercy of God directed to us.”
Such is the immense love and holy awesomeness of the manger.
Pastor Jason Carter