It was Christmas 2006. I was visiting my parents for the holidays, but I was not much fun to be around. I was miserable. For a month I had been nauseated and puking. I had no energy and my joints seemed to constantly ache. The first trimester of my first pregnancy was proving to be difficult. I mostly sat around or slept. One evening, my dad announced he was going for a walk and wanted me to come with him. The fresh air would do me good, he insisted. Grudgingly, I pulled on my snow boots and coat and followed him outside.
It was snowing. The flakes fell softly all around. There was no wind. No typical town noise. Just the peaceful sound of snowflakes gently landing on my coat. We walked the streets in companionable silence, stopping occasionally to admire a Christmas light display. As we walked, my mind turned to the little person growing in my belly. What would it be like when he kicked for the first time? What would it be like to hold him?
Then, as we passed a nativity scene, I realized that God, thousands of years before, chose to enter the world the same way as the baby growing in me would. God, who is all-powerful and omnipresent, became an embryo that grew inside a woman and was born into the world as a helpless baby. When God entered the world, there was no room for him to be born in a house. There was no midwife present to help with his delivery. Instead, God entered the world in the lowliest of positions–a baby born in a barn.
Why on earth would God choose to enter the world as a helpless baby born in a barn? The answer is so simple, yet so profound. Love.
As Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, “This is the staggering message of Christ’s incarnation: God’s glory became dirt so that we- the scum of the earth- might become the very glory of God.” Because of His great love, He entered the world that way for us. And while it seems absurd to our human eyes, His radical love is what the Christmas story is all about.
Romans 8:38 sums it up beautifully. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How do we know this to be true? Because God would never allow anything to stand in the way of His love reaching us. Through His birth as a baby, He proved He would stop at nothing to be with us. He left all the comforts of heaven, surrendered all his power to be with us, to know what it was like to be one of us. He chose to be dependent on a human mother to feed and care for him just like any other human. He learned what it was like to be cold, hungry, tired, sad, and completely reliant on others for his care. He wanted to walk with us, but he also wanted to understand what it was like to walk as one of us (Hebrews 4:14-16).
And if you follow the whole story of Immanuel, “God with us,” you know that the baby Jesus grew up, and used his time on earth to comfort the hurting, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Then he walked right up to a tortuous cross. For our sake he carried our sin and bore our shame, dying on that cross so that he could defeat sin and death once and for all through his resurrection. His Spirit could now live among His people comforting and guiding them for all eternity. Now, truly, nothing can separate us from the love of God. His birth as a baby, his life on earth, his death at the cross, and his resurrection from the dead made sure of that. Praise God!
As the baby in my womb continued to grow, my body changed and adapted to make room for him. My husband and I began to rearrange the house to make room for his crib and the many things a baby requires. Most importantly, our hearts grew to make room for the love we would have for the new family member coming into the world. As God entered the world, there seemed to be little room for him. There was no room at the inn. There was no room in people’s hearts for a miraculous conception. Instead, Jesus’ birth was surrounded by rumor and scandal.
I wonder if people really knew who was being born that day, would they have made room? Would they have let him be born in a barn among the animals? If they knew that God was at work, would it have changed how they approached Mary and Joseph, or how they interacted with the new baby?
God is always at work in the world, but rarely in ways that make sense to us. Often his works are as inconspicuous as a baby born in a barn, but as life-changing as the love of God living among us. The question is: Do we make room for the work of God in our lives? Or do we push the miraculous gift of Immanuel, “God with us,” to the outskirts of our lives? What if we arranged our hearts and lives so that we can be molded and changed by the work God is doing in and around us?
As we celebrate Christmas, surrounded by gifts from family and friends, let us not forget the greatest gift. The gift of love born in a barn thousands of years ago. A baby born to fulfill God’s deepest desire, to live and walk with his people, to be in close relationship with his people. His deepest desire is to walk with you in love. Let us make room in our hearts and lives for the gift that will never fade or disappear…the unfailing love of God.