I once heard the Christmas story retold like that of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story. (Remember those?) Instead of the norm, a bright evening star, a gallery of angels harmonizing to a gaggle of awestruck shepherds, and a triad of royal wise men bearing expensive gifts, I got an earful of a dirty, grungy, dangerous mission, secret-agent style. And that image has stuck with me ever since.
The birth of Christ was everything holy, beautiful, reverent, and divine. It is the very beginning of the original, ageless, transforming story of redemption God speaks over us every single day. It is the catalyst of the pursuit, the crack in the barrier, that allowed God to go in after us.
It was his rescue mission.
It’s hard for me to imagine what was truly at stake that night in Bethlehem, amidst the 21st century Christmas scene, with the twinkling lights, gently jingling bells, and pretty packages stacked beneath a tree. It’s hard for me to make adequate room while I check my mental To-Do and To-Get lists, trying to make sure we have the most organized and put-together holiday ever, with just enough Christmas functions and parties sprinkled in to look like we’re having fun. It’s easy to condense the birth of Christ, to tuck it away, with a nod and a smile and a “Merry Christmas!” (instead of a “Happy Holidays!”). It’s easy to let it slip down the list somewhere between “Get stocking stuffers” and “Bake cookies for Santa.”
But maybe for a moment, I can remember, and I can know.
We were a drowning people.
The birth of Christ changed that in a severe and pivotal way.
GOD, the Creator, the Heavenly One, the Clean One, broke into a realm His very nature had expelled Him from, a dirty place, a tragic place, a barren and devastated land. His Creation was dying, and He in all His glory was incapable.
So He sent His Son on a mission, the Heir to the throne, the Prince Himself, fully God, fully glorious, regal and divine. He shed His robe of authority and dove in, headfirst, into the muck of a world He saw shriveling.
The only way – the only way – He could bear this mission was to disguise Himself in our flesh, our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities and insecurities. Fully God, yet fully, miraculously, man.
Christ knew the mission. He knew the cost. He knew the stakes if He failed.
And so the Jewel of Heaven came quietly, purposefully.
He came to a sin-drenched land, to a by-the-wayside town, to an unassuming couple, to a cold and filthy crib, to an audience of cattle and earth-stained herdsmen. Though He had the authority to command an army of angels, He came as a helpless infant. He snuck in with the weight of the mission clenched in His fragile fingers, beating in His new human heart, bound to His tiny body, one that would one day soon bear the scars of a painful and necessary death.
It was a mysterious mission, understated but dangerous, heavy with the burden of unequivocal love, a mission inside out and full of the impossible. With a whisper, He slipped in, with a purpose, He walked passionately among us, with the prize fixed boldly in His sight, He came. Not just to conquer, but to reconcile.
God. GOD. GOD came in after us.