To the non-Christian, the Nativity story must seem frankly bizarre: a historical narrative of a baby’s birth which was largely unnoticed by historians at the time but which prompted special stars, angelic visits and the slaughter of many male infants. All this simply for a baby boy, born in inauspicious conditions (but not the first to be born in less than ideal circumstances and certainly not the last), and then celebrated year after year in a variety of styles which (let’s face it) have nothing to do with the actual birth. What’s it all about?!
In order to understand the importance of this birth, however, we have to realise who this baby was: not just an ordinary baby born to doting parents but ‘a holy embryo’, in the words of Michael Card, born to ‘a mother made by her own child.’ The mystery of this birth is called the Incarnation – how God became flesh, how God took on human form in order to ‘be made like us so we could be like Him.’ Ever since the Fall, when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, mankind had been struggling to regain that intimate relationship with God which sin had marred, and frankly, despite every best effort, the gulf was still too wide to be bridged from our side. God’s initiative in the Incarnation, however, made a way possible for that gap to be bridged.
The Christmas story is impossible to comprehend without grasping that Jesus’s birth is far more than the celebration of new life. It is the celebration of the arrival of the Saviour – as His very name reveals – and looks forward to His sacrificial death which atones for our sins (indicated even in the myrrh brought by the wise men.) Our response needs to be to fall down on our knees in worship.
‘He sent His holy Son and so
Became a holy embryo
That is the mystery,
More than you can see.
Give up on your pondering
And fall down on your knees.'(‘To the Mystery’, Michael Card)
‘To the Mystery’, Michael Card