One of the reasons we love the Christmas story is because of its humanity. The story of the young pregnant girl and her uncomfortable fiancé travelling to their family town yet failing to find a room resonates with people across all cultures. In a modern world where religion has been marginalised people still love the Christmas story and see in it lessons for us all about humility and care for the marginalised. I always like to read the newspaper editorials at Christmas as they use this humble human story to encourage us to be more humane to one another. Yet, if that is all we get from the Christmas story then we have failed to see its true significance.
The wonder of the Christmas story is not that a human family faced trying circumstances and yet rose above it. The wonder is that God himself has entered the world in such humble circumstances. Nowhere is this truth more clearly put than in Philippians 2:6-8:
Jesus Christ, who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
This is the most incredible truth of all history. Jesus’ story did not begin in that manger and stable in Bethlehem. He existed as God for all eternity – God the Son dwelling in heaven. Jesus had all the power and all the glory that comes with being the God of the universe but instead of using it for his own advantage he… became a man.
In a way, we could understand him doing that if he came as a king or some sort of immortal being, like a superhero in the comic books. However, Jesus didn’t come in that way. Instead he was born into normal humanity . Then as he grew up he claimed no privilege. Instead he walked and he worked and he suffered and he struggled and he loved and he laughed and he cried when his friends were sick – just like we do. Finally, he even allowed Himself to be crucified and die.
There is the wonder of Christmas. Not only did the Son of God humble himself and become a man. Not only did he live and suffer what all humanity goes through. He allowed himself to die and, in doing that, he paid for the sin of humanity and opened up the way to be right with God. As a result of Jesus’ humility, anyone who trusts in him can know God’s forgiveness and salvation.
That’s the heart of the Christmas story.