My toddler grandson had his first sleepover with Mimi and Papa a few days ago, while his parents enjoyed a well-earned overnight get-away. Corban woke up during the night and crawled into bed with me, and I enjoyed watching him sleep for a few minutes. Christmas was coming, and an unexpected thought struck me.
Jesus looked like this once.
I don’t often imagine Jesus as a two-year-old. I have no trouble seeing Him as an infant – Christmas cards and carols help us with that. I easily picture Him as an adult, since the gospels focus primarily on that season of His life. One passage in Luke recounts an experience at the temple when He was twelve.
But all of the years between His birth and that moment at the temple are covered in one verse: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40 ESV).
Think about that idea for a minute – “the child grew.” Those three simple words cover so many years, so many milestones that are familiar to us. He learned to walk. He was potty-trained (do you think he soiled those famous swaddling clothes?). He moved from breast-feeding to solid food. He learned to talk. He interacted with His parents and His siblings. He played. He cried. He slept. He breathed. He bled.
He was one of us. He was human.
In his book God Came Near, Max Lucado calls us to embrace the humanity of Jesus.
“To think of Jesus in such a light is—well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it? It’s not something we like to do; it’s uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer. He’s easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable.
But don’t do it. For heaven’s sake, don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be.”
I imagine the writer of Hebrews would nod his head at Lucado’s encouragement, because it prepares the way for us to hear this: “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17 NIV).
When you struggle, He knows what that struggle is like. When you hurt, He knows how the pain feels. When you grieve, you come into the presence of the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” – who, I believe, buried His earthly father. When you are lonely, you cry out to the one who prayed alone. When you feel betrayed … well, who better to turn to than Him?
And when you sin, if you are a Christ-follower, you have a faithful and merciful high priest who became human in order to take care of that.
Christmas marks the day when God came near, when He became one of us, fully human in every way. Let that sink in, and don’t forget it as the lights come down and the decorations are put in the rafters for the next 11 months.
Christmas brings us face-to-face with the humanity of Jesus. Don’t let that amazing reality fade away the rest of the year.
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