Lowly in the Manger Lies
With these words John goes to the very heart of the meaning of Christmas. He doesn’t tell us about the circumstances of the birth of Jesus. There’s no mention of his being born in a stable, nor of the shepherds being inspired to come and adore the baby Jesus. Certainly all this is important in telling us that he was born in very humble circumstances, and not in a palace. In this Jesus identified with the countless people who are born into poverty.
But as we meditate before a crib we are struck by the reverent love Mary, Joseph and the shepherds show the baby Jesus. They inspire us to join them in adoring the babe born at Bethlehem. They believed that he was Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth.
Some artists have shown Joseph taking off his shoes, not because his feet were sore, but in remembrance of Moses being told to remove his shoes. That was a sign of reverence for God as he revealed himself in the burning bush, and promised to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt. Joseph, like Moses, realised that he was on ground made holy by Almighty God’s saving presence – in the babe in the manger.
That’s the message today’s Gospel solemnly proclaims. First John raises our minds to the awesome divine majesty of the Word of God. He is truly the eternal God, the creator of heaven and earth. One of the reason’s John calls him the ‘Word of God’ is because he came to reveal the Father and show us the way to happiness with him.
Having raised our minds and hearts to reflect on the sublime glory of the Word of God, John then brings us down to earth. He tells us the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. That should bring us up with a jolt!
Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, has become a creature. Now he is forever part of the human race, forever committed to us. God could not have paid us humans a greater compliment than by becoming one of us.
He who is all-powerful, upon whom everything depends for its very existence, became a baby, dependent upon his creatures for his basic needs. Almighty God made himself weak and vulnerable to our love or our rejection. In Jesus the unapproachable God of majesty and glory could be embraced with love or nailed to a cross.
We cannot begin to appreciate the wonder of Christmas if we forget that the babe born at Bethlehem never ceased to be almighty God. That’s why we adore baby Jesus.
John then tells us that the Word incarnate came among his own people but they didn’t welcome him. Sadly, today many people are not interested in the birth of Christ. He means little or nothing to them. Christmas festivities without Jesus become meaningless opportunities to have a good time, without celebrating anything in particular.
But if we make his birthday the focus of our celebrations he will give meaning to our festivities and a depth to our joy, as we realise that the Son of God joined the family of man, so that we could become the children of God, sharing his own divine life and happiness. So, at Christmas we celebrate not only the birth of Christ, but also our birth as Christians. That gives meaning to our festivities, which otherwise would be empty.
So, as we enjoy ourselves let us remember what we are celebrating – the birthday of our Saviour, the Word of God becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us. There would be something very wrong if we pushed Jesus into the background on his birthday.
At Christmas it’s customary for us to give and receive presents. But do we realise that God has given us the very best of presents – his only Son? All he wants in return is for us to welcome him with love.
We wish you every Christmas blessing and joy!