Silent night, holy night. All is calm. All is bright, round yon’ virgin, mother and child — holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace! Sleep in heavenly peace.
How many times have I sung this as one long string of words with no meaning?
This year, I am trying to see, to hear, to encounter deliberately.With ears wide open. And I am struck by those words, “holy infant.”
God. The all-knowing, all-seeing Creator God, existing forever, unlimited by time and space. Sustaining the world and immeasurable universe, and at the same time also weaving together the twisted, intertwined, sometimes frayed threads of each of our lives into a masterpiece only he can see.
That God poured himself into a human body. He chose to shake off eternity and step into time and space, by entering a woman’s womb and developing from embryo into helpless tiny newborn baby in the hands of very young first-time parents.
A holy God dwelled in a body that urinated and eliminated waste, a body that must have spat up, thrown up, and got stuffed up. God, who knows all, had learn to eat, drink, sit up, crawl, and walk just like we do.
Honestly, I’d have a much easier time wrapping my head around God inhabiting an adult body. That’s what the Jews expected. I’ve been reading the book of John, and more than once the Jews say, “You can’t be the Messiah. We know where you came from – you’re the son of Mary and Joseph, the carpenter. The Messiah is supposed to come out of nowhere!”*
But God is God. By his very nature, he is greater and broader and higher and deeper than we are. If we think we can understand him, we have fashioned a god of our own design and are worshiping an idol.
I can’t understand God. I’ve tried, with especially great effort this year. I’ve tried to figure out how God could be good and loving and in complete control of everything, even evil. For a time I couldn’t shake the image of a god who stays up there, far removed from our suffering; a capricious, ego-maniac, evil scientist type who rubs his hands together with glee as he experiments with his project, destroying pieces here and torturing pieces there. I felt vulnerable, unable to trust in a god like that.
But then I remembered Jesus.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14)
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel,’ which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” (Luke 1:23, quoting Isaiah 7:14)
God came down here. He entered into our world. He has experienced all of life the way we do, the joys and the pains. He can sympathize with our weakness. And then, in his undeserved death, he suffered far more than I ever have to pay for my very real sins. This God did something completely unexpected. This is a God I can trust.
Joy to the world! The Lord has come!
* John 6:42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” John 7:27 “But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”