God with skin on – the creator of the universe, putting on frailty. It’s like packaging an earthquake in a test-tube, or pouring all the world’s oceans into a coke can. It’s something profound – almost absurd – and if true, it changes – quite literally – EVERYTHING.
Consider it: who is the most powerful, important person you’ve ever met? I once ran into Johnny Cash. For serious, I was at a Billy Graham event, and I’d fallen asleep (I’m soooo spiritual), and when I awoke all of my friends were GONE. With sleep still in my eyes, I began stumbling about the 50,000+ people, looking for a familiar face. I heard a friends voice, so I spun around to launch in that direction and ran smack into a wall – or an elephant – maybe a buffalo… okay, Johnny Cash, but it felt like those things. I’m not easily starstruck, but looking up and hearing that deep voice rumble, “Excuse me, son…” – I was literally unable to speak. I walked away having said NOTHING. Johnny Cash was AWESOME.
God is far more awesome than Johnny Cash. And the story is that He came HERE. How would you respond to Him?
THAT is Christmas – the deepest reality of the Universe, where God put on skin and touched our world in a way changes everything. And yet, most of us condemn ourselves to live in the shallow world in-between – discontent with where we are, spiritually, but unwilling to take that long hard look at Jesus and see Him for all that he is, in all of his bigness – in all of His radical-ness – in all of His Jesus-ness.
For many of us – particularly the “religious” – Christianity is a beautiful dream… a world in which everyday reality goes blurry in places… it’s all nostalgia, coziness, and comfort. The nostalgia of carols and candles and firelight and happy little children misses the real point entirely.
“Christmas is NOT a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes – where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized one so they can blow each other to pieces. Christmas is God lighting a candle, and you don’t light a candle in a room that’s already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that’s so murky and dark that the candle, when lit, reveals how bad things really are. ‘The light shines int he darkness’, so say’s St. John in another angle on the Christmas story, ‘and the darkness has not overcome it.’” (N.T. Wright)
Christmas, then, is not a dream, or a moment of escapism where we pretend that this is a far better place than it actually is. Christmas is the reality which “shows up” the rest of reality – it’s like Quantum Physics to Einstein’s model. Right when you think gravity works, and everything makes sense with the world, you discover the details about light – that particles of light can be in an infinite number of places at once – and your head explodes. So, which is true: traditional physics – what we experience as the “real world”, or the strange, absolutely BIZARRE world of quantum physics. YES. They’re true – they’re REAL, but Quantum Physics is the deeper truth, which somehow sustains the “normal” we experience daily.
Christmas isn’t the dream – it is the reality. Jesus is the true King – the Lord – and all of reality makes sense in His light – Jesus is the very Word of God, the physical image of the very voice that spoke this all into existence. If the word “God” means anything at all, and if that God is anything like the God we see in the person of Jesus – God with skin on – then we need to take Christmas – and God – more seriously. If the stories are true, we can’t afford to keep Him at a distance.
Have a very deeply merry Christmas, with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. So be it.