Literally, when Jesus came, he pitched his tent among us. He moved right into our neighborhood. When he put on humanity, he didn’t put it on as one puts on clothes (and takes them off again). He didn’t put it on as one puts on a play and enacts an imaginary scenario for a while. Jesus Christ came in human form and it became his very being. A man like no man ever. God in dirty sandals.
Why did he do it? Was the most glorious, the most divine form imaginable to the mastermind that crafted the solar system a human one? What in God’s nature could best be communicated by becoming as one of his own creatures? How could the unchangeable God take on human likeness permanently (for he inhabits it still)? The measure of the cosmic condescension God demonstrated when he became a squalling newborn must be the measure of the love and mercy God waits to pour on our heads.
It’s difficult to believe, challenging to explain, impossible to understand. No one has ever seen God, say our neighbors of other beliefs. “No one has ever seen God,” agrees John, who walked beside him. But Jesus, he says, “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). We’ve seen him, John calls insistently to us from the pages of history. We’ve touched him with our hands (1 John 1:1). If God is, as the minister Walter Chalmers Smith wrote, “immortal, invisible God only wise / in light inaccessible hid from our eyes” then Jesus made him visible and tangible.
Thus we have One to come to. He approached us so we can approach him. And the beauty of it, the astonishing, merciful, crazy-incredible of this incarnation is, we can approach with anything. This means I have a place to bring fear. One to find in loneliness. It means when I am ashamed of my ugly behavior or I cry bitterly over my failures there is one whose every impulse toward me is kindness and every response unconditional love.
When James wrote “draw near to God and he will draw near to you” he knew just how nearly God had already approached: God was his older brother. When we draw near to him this Christmas, we can (wonder of wonders) do it with confidence: such mercy awaits!
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”