25 Dec

Bible readings: Luke 2:8–14; John 1:1–5,14

The Christmas story tells us of a God who enters a sinful, suffering world. This is powerfully illustrated in Jesus’ birthplace – a dirty stable. My twin boys were born in a London NHS hospital, which is not known for its sparkling cleanliness, and that was pretty traumatic, but God’s Son is born into the dirt of animal refuse. The manger where He slept was the animal feeding trough.

In the location of His birth, we see that Jesus does not remain distant from the dirt and pain of our human existence. The dirtiness of the stable parallels the dirtiness of our lives – the scars we bear, the secret fears, the things we hope no one will ever find out about us. It is into this dirty world that the pure, just and perfect Son of God is born. He comes to embrace us in our real, dirty state – and to save us.

As one writer put it:

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.*

At the same time, the glory of the Lord shines around – the contrast with the squalor of the stable could not be greater, and the shepherds who witness it are transfixed and terrified. This is surely a natural human reaction to the appearance of a glorious angel and the very radiance and majesty of God. We are reminded of the blazing light of goodness and the love of God for a broken world.

The angels, with their grasp of time, their wonder of God and their witness of creation realise that this is a moment of great joy, of good news, and they can’t keep it to themselves. They had been waiting throughout human history and now Jesus had been born – this was fantastic news for them, and they lit up the sky with their joy.

Angels are powerful spiritual beings who have been with God since the creation of the universe and the start of time. They knew something staggering when they saw it – they didn’t just sing for anything and anyone! Think about what God did here – he created the universe and now He has entered into that world. As John tells us: ‘Through him all things were made … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (vv.3,14).

Dr Francis Collins was the head of the human Genome project, and helped map out the DNA of humans. He is one of the most respected scientists in the world and he comments on the wonder of creation: ‘When you look from the perspective of the scientist at the universe, it looks as if it knew we were coming. There are fifteen constants – the gravitational constant, various constants about the strong and the weak nuclear force … that have precise values. If any one of these constants was off by even one part in a million million, the universe would not have actually come to a point where we see it. Matter would not have been able to coalesce (join together), there would have been no galaxy, stars, plants or people.’

The One who brought the universe into existence has now been born as a baby in the very world He made. No wonder the angels rejoiced – they knew the magnitude of what had happened.

Pause to reflect:

Think about the cosmic greatness of God; now think of the fragility of a tiny newborn baby. Thank God for coming as Immanuel – God with us at Christmas.


Praise Him with the words of the famous carol, ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’:

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus to Thee be all glory given; Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!

O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

John F. Wade (1710–1786)


*Charles Sell, Unfinished Business (Multnomah, 1989), pp.121ff.

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