In that newborn child there resided a mercy vast enough to heal all of creation.
The greatest miracle in all of creation happened quietly, unobtrusively, and without fanfare. It happened in an obscure cave that was used as a stable, in an out-of-the-way village of a small country on the far eastern edges of the Roman Empire. It took place out-of-sight and out-of-mind of the great ones, the rulers of the world. When it unfolded in the silence of a winter’s night, it was witnessed only by a handful of poor, unknown, simple people. But that seemingly small event was the still point upon which all of eternity spins. It changed everything.
Mary and Joseph had gone to Bethlehem to be counted in the census that the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus had ordered, which was being carried out by Quirinius, the powerful Roman governor of the eastern ends of the empire. To such august and powerful people, this Jewish man and his pregnant wife were just numbers to be included in the census. They, and the child they were expecting, did not belong to the realm of importance in worldly terms. They were outside of such things. Yet this child was truly far more powerful and unimaginably more important than the great Caesar, or any other self-impressed potentate.
The great paradox of this story is that, in the end, everything that ever was, is, and ever will be, depends on this child who came into the world, a newborn infant, weak, in need of milk and the tender love of his mother and father…but who was God. This is something very serious for us to reflect upon. This birth we celebrate every year at Christmas points to a reversal, a challenge to all of our worldly values. This birth challenges us to see through the pretenses of worldly values like power and self-importance, or the prevailing standards of our times, and to see, rather, the light of truth that dwells in this child laid in a manger.
C.S. Lewis spoke of Jesus as having entered the world so anonymously and clandestinely, as a baby born to insignificant parents in an obscure corner of the empire, as a warrior would, compelled to slip quietly behind enemy lines. There is something to this seemingly strange metaphor. The world Jesus entered that night in that cave was no longer friendly to the One who created it, rather it had become, and still is, “enemy-occupied territory.” The Christmas story may be told as charmingly as a fairy tale to children, but within it is a reality that is very harsh and terrible, for the shadow of the cross falls over it.
On that cold winter’s night 2,023 years ago, the salvation of the world began. For us, his beloved children, the Messiah entered into this world so battered and broken by our sins as a seemingly helpless newborn infant, and began his willing journey toward the cross. In that newborn child there resided a mercy vast enough to heal all of creation, and a love deep enough to sacrifice everything, even his very life, in order open the doors of Paradise to us again. And so we sing, “O, come, O, come, Emmanuel.”SKM: below-content placeholder