Here is the Problem:
We make Christmas sentimental rather than embrace the scandal of it.
Here is the Solution:
We must leave our comfort and seek the outrageous presence of God.
The Work of a Scandalous God. An Angel of the Lord told the shepherds that the sign of God’s presence in the world is nothing more than a “baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-9).
- How dare he enter the world incognito.
- How dare he come disguised rather than distinguished.
- How dare he be indistinguishable from all the other babies
- How dare he lie in a manger rather than a crib.
This is not a sign of magnificence, but humility. This isn’t God in splendor, but God in a stable. This is scandalous: God looks like one of us!
The Tweak of Sentimentality. However, in our world, we have tweaked, adjusted, and improved the common scene of the babe in the manger takes on an stance of grand sentimentality.
- We decorate the crèche with ornate décor and splendid accouterments.
- We adorn with lights that give it a heavenly glow.
- Halos, streaming stars, and perfectly clean straw adorn the scene.
- We even sing, “no crying he makes.” (I’m not buying it! Babies cry.)
The scandalous nature of God becoming a human being slips beyond our grasp. We keep the event in the world, but just barely. Dare we truly think of God in human form?
The Shock that Clarified the Scandal. I had a philosophy teacher at the Christian college I attended who startled his students by writing on the board,
“GOD IS NOTHING!”
Of course, we rose up to defend the existence of God, his presence in our world, and our faith in the reality of Heaven. He allowed us express our arguments. Then, with just a brief wipe of the blackboard (yes, they were blackboards back then) and a small adjustment in the letters, his students came to a clearer understand:
“GOD IS NO THING.!”
Ah, we had to think about it. Eventually it made sense. Indeed, it was true.
- A chair is a thing.
- Air is a thing.
- The computer you use is a thing.
- The molar at the end of your row of teeth is a thing.
All “things” have substance. But God is not a “thing.” God is NO thing. God is Spirit.
God is Spirit (John 4:24). Here is the scandal: God, who is Spirit, became human flesh. We must see the scandal in this or we miss the true glory of Christmas. God became human. And, so, the deep Christmas question is this: What is God doing on earth in human flesh? The answer: He is keeping his promises.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The scandal of Christmas is that God came in flesh. He came to establish his kingdom in the hearts and minds of human beings. On the shoulders of the baby in the manger, the government of God’s Kingdom shall rest. Jesus is filled with the fullness of the divine, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Copyright (c) Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.