The Christmas season has arrived, and having read many blogposts about how good parents do special things for the advent season, I decided to try and do something with the boys. Not wanting to get ridiculous, I gently steered Liz away from all her talk of daily advent craft projects, daily candle lighting or advent calendars complete with candy and ornaments or whatever else her Mommy Bloggers were promoting. Instead, I began to do a daily devotional with my sons before they went to bed. Simple, biblical and no glitter is ever involved. They took to it surprisingly well, willing, I suspect, to try anything that would push their bedtime back a few minutes. So for the past week or so I’ve taken some of the lower shelf concepts from this book and tried to create a kid-friendly version of the story. We learned that Jesus came to earth on a search and rescue mission (which they thought was awesome) and how he came to destroy the works of the devil (which they thought was even more awesome!). At one point I told them how amazing, but not fun, it was that Jesus decided to become a human. My older son asked, quizzical look and all, “why is it so amazing? I like being a human! Why wouldn’t Jesus like that?” And to a six year old, I suppose that being human is pretty cool. Sure, it has some drawbacks like homework and broccoli, but really, what’s so bad about it?
It was/is a good question. Why is it so amazing that the pre-existent Son of God added a human nature to himself and came into this world as a child? Part of me wanted to tell Jack using my best Eeyore impression, “Son, just wait till you’re older. One day you’ll realize that being a human isn’t all it’s cracked up to be” but I realized that wasn’t an adequate answer (plus, Liz would have glared at me). Instead, I began a mini detour in my advent series entitled, “Why Being Human Mattered.” I compared the specifics of the transcendental aspect of the preexistent Son (the “my thoughts and ways are way higher than yours are” aspect of God [Is 55:8–9]) with the ultimate decision of his immanent interaction with creation: his coming to earth as a human. The way I explained it to the boys was that Jesus, the “far-off” God (Jer 23:23-24) became Jesus, the “nearby” man (Phil 2:7). Here are some of my thoughts:
From John 1:1–4
John 1:1-2 “The Word was with God” and again “He was in the beginning with God.” This passage speaks of the relationship the Word (read: preexistent Son of God) had with God the Father. “In the beginning” before anything was created they had a perfect, unbroken relationship. They were interacting, knowing (Jn 17:25; 1 Cor 2:11) and loving (Jn 17:23–24) each other, whatever that looked like in an incomprehensible triunity. Juxtapose this to what happened 33 years after Jesus was born when he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Humanly speaking, the longer we’ve spent loving someone, the more difficult it is when they’re gone. Add to this that they had never had an unloving moment. Never had they experienced an unkind word or anger at one another. How much worse must it have been for the Father and The Son who had known each other forever to be separated by death? That’s a reason it was not fun and that it was amazing that Jesus became a human. That’s a big deal.
John 1:3 “All thing were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The preexistent Son, as God, was responsible for making every single thing that was made. He was a maker of persons and things, but he himself belonged to the exclusive category of “not made.” Together with the Spirit and the Father, the Son lived and acted in this free and “at large” manner making whatever he wished, never being confined or limited by anything that had been made. Now consider the choice to give up the freedom available to the wild and unconstrained God-nature by adding to himself a human nature, a nature wholly different than the God who is a Spirit. God the Son gave up the independent exercise of his power and authority by becoming the servant God-man, Jesus. The unmade God found a way to be made. Instead of doing the weaving, he was woven in the depths of the earth (Ps 139:15) and knitted together in his mother’s womb (Ps 139:13). He was certainly “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14) yet he was still made. He “became flesh and dwelt among us” so that we could see his glory, “glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14) and that’s the big deal of Christmas.
John 1:4 “In him was life.” God the Son had life in himself. This refers to his independence from all of creation. He is the ever-living one who needs nothing in order to be alive. We don’t understand this kind of being. We need air, need water, need food, need sleep, need a place to live out of the elements, and the list could go on. The Son lived by virtue of being alive, needing nothing. Nothing could threaten his life. He would never have worried about death but only lived in joyous expectation of future glory moment upon moment, lifetime upon lifetime, forever. Yet the one who was independent of all things, decided to become dependant on mere created things—breathing air he created, eating food he created, drinking water he created, finding shelter from the weather that he created. The God who never slumbers or sleeps (Ps 121:4) found out what it was like to be so very tired that he could not be wakened by the thundering storm of Galillee (Mark 4:37–38. And a greater wonder than all of these, the ever living one decided to find a way to die so that you and I might have a way to live. That’s a big deal. That’s both “not fun” and “amazing.”
From James 1 and Hebrews 4
James 1:13: “God cannot be tempted with evil.” This truth, given as an argument to keep us from blaming God for our sins, helps us understand what it was like for the Son to become flesh. It is comforting to think of God as a being who cannot bet tempted. Should Satan have the opportunity and all the time in the world (which he does not!), he could never convince God to sin. This is true of the Father, Son, and Spirit and is good news for you and me. Our very lives depend on God’s continued love, justice, mercy, and the other moral attributes. And it makes sense to us that Satan couldn’t tempt God. What could he offer the one who owns all things (Deut 10:14) and who needs nothing (Acts 17:25)? Temptation is something else that could only come to Jesus through the addition of his human nature. When God the Son became flesh, he became accountable for and subjected to the most powerful of temptations. In fact, part of God’s plan for Jesus was for him to be “tempted as we are” and that “in every respect” (Heb 2:18; 4:15). In context, Jesus’s temptation allows him to sympathize with our weaknesses. Yet there is more here theologically. Neither you nor I have faced the maelstrom of temptation that Jesus faced while here on earth nor can we understand that level of temptation (read this post!). It is impossible to comprehend. Yet Jesus never gave into temptation. He did not sin. This is very important for you and me, for it is only by Jesus’s righteousness that we can be saved—everything else, every other supposed righteous work, is loss (Phil 3:8–9). Jesus had to be tempted to sin as a human so that we could be credited with a righteousness not our own.
Jesus’s descent to humanity cannot be captured in a quaint manger scene, complete with swaddling clothes, oxen and sheep. The fact that he was born in a stable is amazing, of course, but the fact that he came at all is infinitely more incredible. These truths are cosmic truths that we must understand and believe. And as I tried to bring them down to my boys level, they were a powerful reminder of the Son’s love for me and the world. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” (2 Cor 9:15)