At last we come to the central figure in the nativity story. The series hasn’t worked out quite like I thought it would when I started it at the beginning of the month. There are “voices” not heard, and so much more that could have been heard from the ones that were. Nevertheless, here we are: someplace near a feeding trough for animals – a makeshift bed for the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and of each and every one of us, because there was no room for Him elsewhere. We understand the situation. It wasn’t because of the hardheartedness of people. There was just simply no room.
We could get sidetracked here about the evil government that had created the situation, but that’s not our purpose. Our purpose is to focus on an unknown infant in an obscure village in a small, troublesome nation, an infant generally ignored in the hustle and bustle of the happenings of the day. Pretty much like today.
Even among Christians.
And nativity scenes.
And the hustle and bustle of Christmas.
The celebration of the birth of our Lord brings about a curious situation. Have you ever noticed that the Lord Jesus is the only historical character never allowed to grow up? (And, yes, I know that some think He never existed.) I made a comment somewhere on a blog about this and someone replied, “Easter.” That’s not what I meant.
What do I mean?
Nelson Mandela died a few weeks ago. In the future, when his birthday comes around, the focus will not remain on his birth among the Tempu tribe in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918. That will no doubt be included, but the focus will be on what he accomplished in his life.
By way of contrast, the Lord Jesus remains forever a Babe on Christmas Day.
Why do you suppose that is?
Nobody’s afraid of a baby.
I don’t know what the situation was back in the Lord’s day, but folks today will come up to the parents of a little one and “ooh” and “aah” over how cute he or she is. They’ll smile at the little one, want to know his or her name, and then go their way because he or she isn’t theirs. They have no real interest in that little one beyond today’s cuteness. But the baby certainly poses no threat to them or their well-being.
What about the Baby in the manger?
He grew up.
The Lord Jesus began His ministry by commanding people to repent. He talked about sin and death and judgment and hell, where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-48. Now these were not ignorant heathen in some out-of-the-way place somewhere. These were people who for centuries had prided themselves on being God’s people. They were the chosen nation. And no doubt many of them did know the Lord. But the idea to some of them that they should repent just like Gentiles who converted was just too much.
He told them that unless their “righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” they would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:20. You have to understand that the scribes and Pharisees were looked upon as the paragons of virtue and righteousness. The idea that something more than what they had was required – why, that was unthinkable! More than once, the Lord publicly scolded them for their hypocrisy. No wonder, they perceived Him as a threat to them and their way of life, cf. John 11:48. Granted, this was the leaders of the nation, but it apparently didn’t take much to incite the crowds later to cry out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Luke 23:20: John 19:15.
The Lord Jesus as a Baby poses no threat to folks. They can ignore Him and go their way. But as the incarnate God and Judge of all mankind – well, He’s a threat. They don’t want to think about things like death and the judgment to follow. They don’t want to be told that they’re sinners, and that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God. They want to hear about “love,” not righteousness, about “a better place,” not that other place. They want “health,” not holiness. Riches, not redemption.
The Lord Jesus as a Baby is safe.
But He grew up.
Thank you, Lord.