Have you ever considered just why Jesus came to earth as he did, a little six-pound, seven-ounce baby or whatever he weighed, in the flesh, complete with blood, bones, DNA, lymph nodes and all that great stuff? Why didn’t he just come as a fully grown, powerful kingly-type, floating in the sky like Michelangelo’s famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, aloof and commanding, complete with floating throne, smoke, fire and angels singing ‘Alleluia?’ What’s up with this whole come-as-a-baby thing?
Then consider this: how did you come into this world? Probably as a six-pound, seven- ounce infant or whatever you weighed, complete with blood, bones, DNA, lymph nodes and all that great stuff, right? (I was four pounds, eleven ounces, to which my mother famously said, “I went through nine months of aggravation for that?) The similarity is intentional on God’s part. It wasn’t us who chose God, it was God who chose us, to be exactly like us by taking on the same flesh that we’re living in right now as we gather here together this Christmas Eve night. Think about that: Jesus not only took on flesh, he literally took on us, including all of our experiences, even the experience of being a helpless swaddling infant. The natural uptick is that we now can realize that we mere inconsequential human beings can be raised to the glory of Jesus himself in holiness of spirit. We cannot, of course, become God, but thanks to Jesus, we can incorporate the divine in us as he incorporated the human within him.
This is what we mean when we say that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human. The two have been inextricably conjoined in his person, in a perfect melding of God in us, and we in God. Why is this important? What difference does it make if Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, has taken on human nature? To God’s Son, probably little, he’d still be the Son of God and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity whether he was born into humanity or not, but it makes a world of difference to us. Without his humanity, we could never share the benefits of his divinity. There’d be too great a chasm. No way to cross over to the other side, to have that divine spark indwelling within us, which is what attaining heaven and eternal life is all about.
So tonight, I’m going to keep this Christmas message very simple, basic, and to the point. Tonight, we remember that Jesus took on human flesh so that you could take on his Divinity by incorporating his very soul into your being. So, tonight is a celebration of the beginning of new life, not only of Jesus as a baby, but ours, too. A spiritual rebirth as the Spirit of Jesus enters into the human soul forever. What began tonight in Bethlehem is incredible, remarkable: God actually chose to dwell in us, in human form. God chose to be just like you, exactly like you, when he took on this humanity that we all possess. With all the wants, needs, and challenges that you face each day. Just like you. So remember what God gave you beginning this night: it is in that sameness that we find our very dignity. That simple fact should both toughen us to avoid anything that scuffs the Christ within us, that is, sin, and should soften us to see Christ, God, in ourselves and in all others, especially the poor amongst us.
So many of us want to pretend there is no smallness, no weakness, no vulnerability in our lives. We like to think of ourselves as big, tough, invulnerable. Self-made. Important. Independent. Contrast that with Jesus’ birth. Jesus came small, vulnerable, without a resume, and weak in the arms of his mother and stepfather. And beautifully dependent: as he nestled and cuddled in the protective arms of his parents, he showed us that it’s OK for us sometimes to be weak and vulnerable too, because, as Saint Paul reminded us, it is when we are weak, and thus aware of our dependency on God, that we become strong. For Jesus, that little vulnerable baby became strong enough to eventually kill death itself by beating, on the Cross, Satan at his own infernal death-dealing game.