I’ve mentioned before that I was the youngest of nine children in my family, and being the youngest of the family, I was never really around babies very much as I was growing up. I was twelve years old before my first niece was born, and at that point in my life, I wasn’t all that impressed. I couldn’t understand why everyone was so excited about this new baby. Babies don’t do very much, besides sleeping, crying, eating, and filling their diapers. What’s so great about that? What’s the big deal?
As I think of the story of Christmas and the manger scene, I can’t help but think how strange it was that God chose to enter the world as a Baby. The Greeks had lots of stories in their mythology about gods breaking into our world, usually with violence and great force. We ourselves believe that God is all-powerful, and He could have chosen another way to enter our world as a conquering Messiah, so why did He choose instead to enter so quietly, almost entirely undetected, and to live such an unremarkable life for so many years? To grow in the silence of Mary’s womb for nine months, and to live in obscurity a seemingly unproductive infancy? Do we ever wonder as we look at the manger scene: What’s so great about this Baby? What’s the big deal? Even as Jesus grew and worked as a carpenter with St. Joseph, we might think His years could have been better spent doing something else. Why didn’t He do more? Why doesn’t God do more, why doesn’t God do more to answer my prayers, to fix our broken world and set it right, to heal the diseases of my friends and relatives? What’s so great about this Baby in the manger? What’s the big deal? He doesn’t seem to do all that much for me.
But still, we gather today to proclaim that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and there is no other. We gather to be reminded that this tiny Child is Emmanuel, God-with-us. So often in the frenzy of our hurried lives we forget the main goal of our existence, the whole purpose for which we were created and came into this world. We forget that the goal of our lives is not to be productive or to be successful or to be happy and healthy and undisturbed by any sort of suffering or trial. No. Our ultimate goal in this life and in the next is to be with God. The Son of God took upon Himself our humanity to become Emmanuel, which means, God-with-us. He takes upon Himself even our weakness, our infancy, our dependency, our vulnerability, our inability to do much of anything productive. He takes upon Himself the monotony of human work and the obscurity of a hidden life. Jesus takes upon Himself even the consequences of our sins, suffering and death, our own brokenness, to show us that God is with us in everything, that there is no disease, no trial or suffering, no failure, and not even death itself, that can separate us from God, if we have lived our life to be with Him.
In Jesus Christ, in this tiny Baby in the manger, God has given us the Way to eternal life, to be with God forever. If we’re still asking, what’s so great about that or what’s the big deal about living forever with God, we might want to take a look at the direction our life is going. God is with us in Jesus Christ, but He does not force Himself on anyone. So is it clear to you and to those around you that your main goal in life is to be with God forever? Or are we still living for something, or for someone else? Come, Lord Jesus. O Come, Emmanuel, and teach us to thirst for God, to desire above all things to be with You forever.