I wrote this several years ago with my congregation in Lexington, KY in mind. I thought it is worth sharing here.
The Message says that “God became man and moved into the neighborhood.” This may be difficult for us to grasp because it doesn’t seem like Jesus moved into our neighborhood. Rather he moved into a small ancient town on the other side of the world, about as far removed from the intersection of South Limestone and Alumni as possible; in land where donkeys and camels were far more popular than “Wildcats” and people greeted one another with Shalom instead of howdy. So you may wonder “Why all the fuss about Christmas?”
The truth is that God becoming man was the most significant event in the history of the universe. Not only did God join us in our humanity but the Almighty was born to a poor, minority, unwed teenage mother, not in a house, but on the floor of a barn, in an occupied territory during a genocide, which they then had to flee as refugees. He was then wrapped in scrap fabric and laid down in the feed trough; his first breaths took in the scent of manure and musty hay, his ears first heard donkeys braying and his eyes first focused in on the gnats and flies buzzing around his face. His first visitors were not world or religious leaders, but working class loners who led animals around the wilderness just to make ends meet. This is the way that God entered the world, as a baby, powerless and totally dependent on humanity for survival. So again you may ask “Why all the fuss about Christmas?”
Perhaps the best answer is found in a single word, love. God loved, so God risked, risked it all. In order to understand the profundity of this we must grapple with the eternal nature of the Son. “Without the premise of preexistence there can be no talk of incarnation or Christmas.” (Oden, p 66) Jesus, had to be God, for his becoming humanity to have any efficacious power. God who has always existed, who created, decided to join his creation as one of us, knowing that we would not accept him and that we would ultimately kill him. “God never did anything in history more revealing of the divine character than to become incarnate and die. By his coming the poor were blessed, the hungry satisfied, weepers brought to laughter, the excluded embraced, and the reviled welcomed. (Luke 6:20-23)” (Oden, 86) Perhaps you are stil asking, why all the fuss about Christmas?
In the birth of Jesus we can pinpoint this one totally unique event that God decided to reverse the curse of our history of sin and restore humanity to its intended place as the pinnacle of God’s creation. Classical theology teaches us that Jesus became a man to redefine humanity; he took on our image to give humanity his image. This is the greatest gift that God could give us, himself. Our only reaction should be humble praise and thanks because “Humanity is incomparably honored in the incarnation for God made flesh divine, without providing occasion for the worship of the creature.”(128) Still asking why all the fuss about Christmas?
Humanity’s enemy, the damned deceiver, has made it his mission to drag us with him to hell, to invade our space and whisper lies in our ears, but he is unwilling and incapable of joining in our experiences, knowing our joys and pains. But in Jesus “God came closer than the enemy. The devil came close to us; but he did not come so close as to assume our nature… (he) did not come so close to us as did God’s Son, who became our flesh and blood.”(130) At Christmas we recognize that God would rather join humanity than see his creation destroyed; He would rather have our experiences, demonstrate his intimate closeness and move into our neighborhood than let us wander hopelessly toward our own destruction. God did all that we could never do. He came to us when we could not come to him. That is why we make all this fuss about Christmas.
Pg numbered quotes are all from Thomas Oden’s book The Living Word.