She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7.
Every age makes life’s biggest mistake imagining God in every guise but His reality. Wouldn’t we expect the Ruler of the entire universe to come to a palace and take up His rightful place as King of the earth? In fact, God’s people of that time fully expected their Messiah to come as a liberating hero and kick out the occupying Romans.
Both convenience and fear dictate caricatures of God. He probably wants everybody to have a good time, so let’s imagine him as a grandfatherly figure, who pats us all on the head. Or possibly His love provides a haven where He overlooks all our sin, and we’ll all enjoy a heaven of our own making—some heaven!
He may mimic an erratic father who needs to be appeased at every turn. Perhaps as a stern and disinterested judge, He punishes us for our sins by bringing us adversity. Maybe He waits to pounce on every deviance from his will like a tyrannical dictator. Alternatively, He simply wound up the universe like a watch, and, with no further interest in it, left us on our own.
The stable, one of the most significant symbols of Christianity, destroys all our foolish imaginings. Seeing God in a cattle trough can only attest to one overriding characteristic: humility. When God gave Moses the Law, he described Himself by the ways He would administer it: compassionate, gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving (Exodus 34:6–7), all the components of humility.
But that does not discount His omnipotence. He also described Himself as just, and when His humble approach to humankind reaps no response He will take the only course left, that of judgment. He was constrained to the manger by His love, not weakness. Don’t let us mistake “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” for a weak, ineffectual Ruler who will never bring justice to the world.
But in this season, we rejoice that God reached out to us in a way we can comprehend—by becoming like us, feeling our pain, showing us how to live, dying to redeem us back to Himself, and finally rising from the grave to confirm his authority, power and truth.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour.