Why did God come to us as a baby? So fragile, so small, wrapped in strips of cloth? Why didn’t he come to us in a Triumph parade with enemies enslaved before him and spoils of war put on display and his legions of warriors loyally standing behind him? Why didn’t he impress us that way? After all, it’s what we are tempted to want in a gift.
I remember when our daughter was born last Christmas time. We would take a towel and wrap her up so snugly, she couldn’t move. She was like a little football. And we would draw this precious, child into our arms and cradle her so close to our hearts. If she had chosen to come to us in the powerful Triumph of a talkative, all-knowing teenage girl who was already interested in boys, we wouldn’t have been able to receive her so intimately. We would have been frightened of her. We might have offered the doctor money to send her back, because we would have been very afraid.
Have you noticed, that when it was announced to people that Jesus was coming, their first reaction was fear? The angels had to reassure people, “Do not be afraid. This is good news. He will come as a baby. He is laying aside his splendor for a while, so that you may draw close to him.”
Jesus didn’t come in his power. He didn’t come in the grandeur of a conquering ruler. He came to us as a servant, no bigger than the rest of us, so that we could draw near to him and receive him, cradling him at our hearts.
One final thought. Jesus came to us in an unexpected wrapping. And he left the same way. The God of the universe who loved us so much, was wrapped in cloth and laid in a manger as a baby. He grew up, walking and talking with us, laughing and singing, teaching and healing, inviting people to receive him. But many people didn’t like the presentation. This isn’t the Triumph they expected. They wanted the immediate, impressive display of God. So this gift, this child, was rejected and despised. He was crucified on a cross.
There were two guys who saw through the packaging and received Jesus into his heart. He asked if he could take down Jesus’ body from the cross… and was permission by the authorities to do so. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man and follower of Jesus, along with Nicodemus, the man who was told by Jesus that God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. These two guys took the body off the cross and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a tomb.
It’s not the wrapping we might expect from the King of kings and Lord of lords. But it is the wrapping he chose to present himself to us.
Now we can’t keep God wrapped up for too long. He is too full of splendor and majesty and glory and honor and power to be remain in a manger or in a tomb. But he comes to us wrapped up humbly, so that we would have the opportunity to receive him.
Which gift do you want? The impressive presentation? Or the true gift?