Thursday, December 18, 2014

This is the Christmas

The Timeless Gift of a Baby

All very tiny humans are, as far as I’m concerned, adorable. The description fits some a bit more than others. Occasionally a baby comes along who is, well, not exactly the acceptable version of cute. But pick him and squeeze him, and it doesn’t matter. Wrapping your arms around a wiggling, cooing baby makes the day much better, and it doesn’t matter if he, or she, looks like Winston Churchill. But the little beings emit strange noises and odors, and sometime they cover their helplessly awestruck fans in stuff no one could describe as adorable. They’re like a little piece of Heaven. Then they remind us where we really are—a world where things get messy.

The baby boy who came by divine design must have had the same effect on his earthly family. Even though he didn’t get the sterile birthing environment we demand when we welcome a baby, his mother must have adored him. Joseph must have been mesmerized by the sight of him. Maybe his grandparents coddled him. He was not just a piece of Heaven. Whether they knew it or not, this baby was their ticket to Heaven.

The savior of the world came as one completely helpless. And undeniably wonderful. But some were willing to destroy a generation of precious innocence to keep one baby from fulfilling prophecy. As if anyone could put an end to God’s plan. The prophet Isaiah tells us about the baby:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).  Isaiah 7:14

Three decades later, the baby was not someone to coddle. His family was probably long over their fascination with the little man. To most people, he was nothing special. He was just a carpenter from Nazareth. But a few recognized Jesus for who he really was. And then the sweet story we celebrate of the baby born in a manger became the bitter, bloody event Isaiah wrote about seven hundred years before it happened. The Son perfectly submitted his Father’s perfect plan. The plan was not one any earthly father would consider for his newborn son’s future. But God, considering our future, did the unthinkable.

God’s message through Isaiah doesn’t tell as much of the baby as it does of the wounded, dying man. Nobody found him adorable then. They all turned away.

He was despised and rejected by men; 
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:1-6

Not exactly a Christmas card greeting. But without this, the story of the little baby born in Bethlehem means nothing. Isaiah tells of the event in past tense, though he wrote it long before it happened. With God there is no past or future. There is only the happening. This is the day, the minute, the millisecond. It’s history. It’s right now. It’s our future. It changes everything.

This Christmas is the one God remembered when He left Mary’s baby boy hanging on a cross. He saw you hanging your stockings and arranging the little glass wise men and shepherds around the newborn gift to the world. He watched you, long before you did it, sign your name to the card with the Nativity scene on the front. Picture that blessed moment with the cross on a hill in the background. Because when the baby was born, that’s what his Father saw.

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