Last night as my wife and I read the story of Jesus' birth to our eight week old daughter from The Big Picture Story Bible, I found myself overwhelmed with fresh insight into the truth of this passage. Here is how David Helm puts it in that book:
"But in this crowded city where would this special baby be born? In a nice, big home? No, not in a nice, big home. In a clean hotel? No, not in a clean hotel. All the nice, big homes and clean hotels were filled up with people. Can you guess where this baby would be born? God's forever king was born in a stable, a place for animals." (emphasis mine)
Being just a handful of classes away from a Masters of Divinity degree, this quote from a children's story Bible didn't confront me with any new information, but rather it presented a familiar truth with such simplicity and beauty that I found myself struggling to read the rest of the story. How utterly mind blowing that the birth of creation's king should occur in the same place that a donkey might be born, or eat his dinner, or even relieve himself! I wanted to weep and praise God for His goodness right then there. Is there no limit to God's humility? What have I ever done to deserve such a King?
It's astounding that a holy God would choose to love a sinner like me at all. It's unfathomable that He would choose to enter into the finite space of His creation to show me that love. It is unthinkable that He should take the guilt for my sin against Him upon Himself and die in my place. But how far beyond human reason is it to think that the one true Creator God would enter this creation as a helpless baby who can't even lift His own head? And then that the birth of this baby should not be met with fanfare or honor as even the birth of a human king would be, but rather that it should be crowded out of all civilized conditions and into a stable..."a place for animals!" Again I ask is there no limit to God's willingness to humble Himself on our behalf?
There is no other god like this God. No other god is so deserving of honor. No other god is so unassuming. The only proper response to an event like this is dumbfounded awe followed by heartfelt worship and joyous proclamation. And yet, my own human capacity to grow accustomed to God's great actions towards me and even to take them for granted never ceases to amaze me either. Don't take this amazing gift for granted today. And don't wait for Christmas to celebrate or break out into worship for this God's most amazing gift to His creation. Sing, exult, lift up your heart in worship for the one, true God has humbled Himself and taken on the nature of a man because of His love for you. And yet in doing so, He did not demand honor as a human king would. He did not impose His will on anyone. In fact, He came so gently that He would not have even broken a "bruised reed" or snuffed out "a smoldering wick." What manner of God is this! Certainly one who deserves my praise, my life, my all.
For further reading...
- Philippians 2:5-8- More on Jesus' humility.
- Luke 2:1-3- Helms also draws a comparison between Caesar and Jesus. Jesus comes so humbly at the same time that Caesar is trying to show his greatness by numbering his subjects.
- Matthew 26:47-27:56- What all-powerful god would allow himself to be treated like this?