This is the time of year when we celebrate God becoming man, or to be more accurately, God in the person of Jesus putting on a human nature. It really is the most incredible event in all of history, matched only by the end for which He came.
This is of course a very hard thing to fully grasp. Certain worldviews have a particularly hard time with it, for it seems to imply that there is more than one God and that the Son is just as great as the Father, greatest of all conceivable beings.
What they are struggling with is the trinity, the truth that it is possible for multiple persons to be totally identical and yet separate. It is outside our human experience because it can only be true of God. My favorite way to illustrate this mystery is Jello.
If I take some Jello out of the mold, cut it into three equal pieces and put them on separate plates I have three separate things that are completely identical in what they are. So it is with God. It is “separate but equal,” in a good way.
Well, that may be easy enough to picture with Jello but when we talk about having a mind and will we take it from human experience that they must have slightly different personalities and abilities, just like “identical” twins. But God is different. He is unlimited in knowledge and power and love, among other things. There can be no difference between one Person’s unlimited knowledge and the unlimited knowledge of the Others'. The same goes for being unlimited in power. They must be completely identical, and that is the Christian understanding of the trinity. While this sounds terribly lofty and arcane it is completely necessary to understanding God and is at the heart of the Gospel.
So, here we have God in the person of Jesus, the greatest of all beings (no one else is even remotely close), choosing to humble Himself to the level of an infant human being, temporarily laying aside all power and privilege, totally dependent on his heavenly Father’s granting of His requests, all in order to be brutally beaten, die an excruciating death and worst of all, become sin for us so that the Father must break their otherwise eternal fellowship.
That kind of pure fellowship is impossible for us to imagine – a previously unbroken, sweet union of trillions and trillions of years between two people who are both Ultimate Love, who had never hurt each other in any way. Jesus’ heartbroken cry on the cross as He became the total sin of billions of people, the very sin He so vehemently hates – that cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” is surely the most painful thing anyone could ever scream. And the sense of the Greek word used there is just that – a scream, a horrible, all-consuming scream at the agony of being separated from the Father as Jesus the Son took the penalty for our sins.
The cross was so much more brutal than our picture of it, and the worst of it was not the physical pain but the emotional and spiritual wrenching apart of the greatest love relationship in all eternity.
Because Jesus came to earth with that in mind, it makes me love him all the more. I can never get my mind around that level of suffering, nor comprehend the distance that Jesus spanned when heaven came down to earth. It is enough to condescend from being the object of worship for heavenly beings to the rejection of earthly beings, from total sovereign power to powerless babe, but the cross at the end of Jesus’ life is what makes Jesus’ birth so remarkable. It is the greatest true story of love ever told, with you and me as beneficiaries. Without the cross one cannot understand the manger.
When Jesus was torn on the cross, God the Father tore apart the veil in the temple that separated us from Him. Yet, one more veil remains. It is not a veil that prevents fellowship with God but a veil that prevents fully experiencing God. That veil will be destroyed at death or at His return, removed as quickly and surely as the veil in the temple. That will be a glorious day! Now we see a dim reflection in a darkened mirror but then . . . face to face.
This Christmas, think about the God who literally sacrificed Himself – God and King and Sacrifice, though death could not hold Him, and paid a price for our freedom that none can comprehend. What other course makes any sense but to receive His offer of forgiveness, follow Him, love Him back and worship Him forever? To God be the glory, great things he has done!