If you think about Christmas, deeply think about it, past the sentimentality of our culture, the Christmas story is a strange and wonderful truth.
Imagine being Jesus’ mom and dad. He has known ultimate authority through all eternity. Now, He’s going to have to submit. His parents, Mary and Joseph, would tell Him when to go to bed, where He can and cannot go, what He must and must not do. He would have to submit to others—to teachers. The Creator of the universe would have to work in the carpenter’s shop, helping his dad pound nails and saw boards. And He chooses this.
You and I get all “amped up” about things like career trajectories and where we are on organizational charts. Think about this one: The Master of the Universe goes into being a carpenter’s assistant. That’s a demotion…that’s a serious demotion.
Throughout all eternity, all the wealth of creation had been at His fingertips. Now He is born into a family so poor, that when He is born they cannot afford a lamb to sacrifice for their firstborn child, as the law said to do. There was a provision they had to take advantage of: that if you were really poor, you could buy just a couple of doves. They were so poor that they had to do that. Paul writes,
You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor so that you, through his poverty, could become rich. (2 Corinthians: 7:9)
The Incarnation is a “riches to rags” story. That’s amazing . . . but it’s not the best part.
Angels look on as the God who lived in perfection—as the God who had known nothing but perfection—takes on human suffering. He would weep at the death of a friend. He who had only been worshipped by angels was now mocked by cynics and hypocrites.
We are told that He was despised and rejected by other people, but He took on so much more than that kind of external hostility. Internally, He took on our worry, our fear, and our loneliness.
At one point, He says, “Now my heart is troubled.” He uses this word troubled to describe unbelievable anguish. Jesus took that on. He knew that for you and for me He took on our guilt. He took on our suffering. He took the punishment of our sin on Himself. He took on His own shoulders the sin of the many. He took up the cause of all the black sheep.
The angels watch as the Eternal steps into time, as the Infinite is confined to space, as Absolute Authority becomes weak, as Perfection takes on sin.
But that’s not the best part.
I’ll tell you a little story, and then I’ll tell you the best part.
I grew up in Colorado. I have always been a Denver Broncos fan. Still am so don’t mess with me. But back in Colorado…
It came to pass in those days, that the phone rang one day, and it was a man named Donnie Dee who used to play tight end for the Seahawks but was now the regional director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Colorado.
A mutual friend of ours had told him that I could preach a little and he invited me to preach at a gathering at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. There were 500 students there that day for the Air Force game and other festivities. I took my oldest son Cole, at the time he was about 6 years old.
Donnie Dee came up to me and said that Randy Gradishar was going to speak right before me. I was blown away. Randy Gradishar! My hero. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1978. The anchor of the famed Orange Crush Defense of the late 70’s. I couldn’t believe it. I wish I had prepared a better talk!
Something happened on the way from Denver down to Colorado Springs and at the last minute Gradishar couldn’t give his testimony. I was sad and relieved at the same time, more sad.
I told Donnie that Gradishar was one of my heroes and that I had so badly wanted to meet him and introduce him to my son. (Truth is I wanted to meet him more than I wanted to introduce him to my son.)
I did the talk…it was okay. Could have done better had Gradishar showed up.
Cole and I got out our tickets that Donnie had given us and went to watch the game. Cole could have cared less about the game…me too for that matter. I was replaying the sermon that didn’t connect and doing some post-editing…taking stuff out…adding stuff….stupid when you think about it…sermon is done and the folks have already forgotten it.
About halfway through the second quarter someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around and looked up and it was Randy Gradishar. And I beheld his glory—the glory of an All Pro Middle Linebacker, full of power and a strong right arm.
I couldn’t believe it. He stuck out his hand and introduced himself to me. I shook his hand and introduced him to my son Cole. He apologized for being late. Said he had car trouble. Said he heard that the sermon went really well. Said that Donnie had told him where I was sitting: the section, row and seat number. He asked if he could sit down and watch the game with me for a while. I stammered that I didn’t mind. He watched it with us until half time. Great guy.
The best part was he sought me out. Found my section, row and seat. And sat down with me. Randy Gradishar came for me.
Here’s the best part.
The Word became flesh. The Eternal came in time. The Infinite restricted Himself to a body. Omnipotence came in weakness. Perfection came to carry our sin. But the best part is…
He came for you.
He came to your section, your row, your seat.
He came for you.
The Word became flesh.
Do you ‘get Him?’ Do you? I hope so…because…
Beyond this God Cannot Go.