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It is only December 6th and I have read and/or heard the story of the birth of Jesus at least a dozen times already. Granted, this is mostly because I have been reading it to my 2 year old George, but still. George loves to hear about baby Jesus. He loves to talk about baby Jesus being in Mary’s tummy. The other night at church, we had a Christmas program about the nativity scene. George was obsessed with the fact that baby Jesus was there. I’m glad that, even at his age, he is starting to talk about Jesus at Christmas time. It will be awhile before he grasps what that means, but it is exciting that he is enjoying that story so much. So, it got me to thinking, what is the story of the baby Jesus all about?
Most of America knows about the birth of Jesus in some form or fashion. Whether it be plastic blow up figures in a nativity scene somewhere in town, or Charles Shultz’s version from Charlie Brown and the gang. But I’ve been thinking recently, do we like the birth of Jesus because it is a necessary step to salvation? In other words, we are excited and thankful for the birth of Christ because we need that in order to get the death and resurrection of Christ, which ultimately gets us to grace, mercy, salvation, and hope for eternal life. All of that is great and is certainly a huge part of the Christmas story, but I think there is something else going on here too. God is returning to dwell among his creation, again. John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh and lived among us. He made a promise to come back to his people Israel, and he did. And the best part of the Christmas story is that it has implications now, not just in the future life to come.
The birth of Jesus launches us into a new way of life. Not just moral and ethical behavior for the sake of obtaining something. It is a different way of living that is kingdom building. In Revelation 21, John shares with us the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. It is not the old Garden, it is the New Jerusalem. The birth of Jesus points to that day. The birth of Jesus also calls us to participate in building that kingdom. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows how this kingdom will be built and what it looks like, and it’s unlike any other kingdom that has ever existed. Every time we feed the hungry, cloth the naked, or give a cup of water in his name, we are adding to the structure of this new earth.
So, I’m happy that George loves baby Jesus. I’m glad he talks about him and wants to read his story every night. However, my hope is that as he grows up, he will see how this baby changes everything in his life. This baby will offer him hope of eternal life, but he also offers him a new world that breaks into this old one that we live in. I hope he sees that this baby is a king and is calling him to help build his kingdom. The birth of Jesus isn’t just necessary because we need him here to later take our sins to the cross. The birth of Jesus is God’s promised future breaking into the present.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14