So, let me see if I have this right. We believe that God miraculously impregnated a woman without any human physical contact. We believe this baby was born in a stable in Bethlehem. We believe this baby was “God in flesh,” God’s son. We believe angels appeared in the sky to shepherds.
Why would God come to earth and why would angels seek out a few shepherds to inform of this great event? These shepherds lived in a nearly constant state of being ceremonially unclean. They raised sheep. They handled sheep. They got dirty in ways best not mentioned. The job was gross.
They endured loneliness and isolation from others because they were always moving from one pasture to another. They endured isolation from God. The ritual required by Pharisees to be clean enough to come into the temple was such a lengthy ordeal it was seldom worth the effort.
We are told “wise men”--astrologers--followed a bright star so they could offer fairly expensive gifts to this humble family. We believe this child grew up, was human in every way we are, worked in His father’s carpentry shop, and lived a fairly normal Middle Eastern life until He was about thirty years old.
At that time, He suddenly began revealing who He is. He turned water into wine; not just any wine, but the finest wine ever tasted on planet earth. He touched people who could not walk and they walked. He touched people who were blind from birth and suddenly, for the first time in their lives, they could see. He approached a woman drawing the day’s water at a local well and told her He knew everything about her. And what He knew was stuff the woman preferred He didn’t know.
This man named Jesus started teaching about God and painting picture after picture of what God was like. The people of that day had accepted the fact that they were just not good religious people, that the church leaders, the Pharisees, were good religious people, and that God was really not interested in the bad people.
People accepted the reality that they would never measure up.
Men of status and power threw elaborate dinner parties; Jesus was occasionally invited. It was a men-only occasion. During one of those dinners, a very sinful woman who was overcome by the love and hope Jesus offered found Him, barged into the room, and bowed at His feet. She used a combination of tears and perfume to demonstrate her love for this man of God.
The men around the table could not believe that Jesus was allowing this to happen. By allowing this unclean woman to touch Him, He became unclean. Jesus had quite a reprimand for the men and knew their thoughts about this woman.
This story gets more bizarre with each passing moment.
And we who claim to be Christians believe this. We believe it so much we give money--sometimes a lot of money--to our churches because the Bible says God blesses tithing and generosity. We send our kids to Christian schools and make it to Sunday school and church most Sundays.
In other words: we build our lives around this virgin-born, God-in-flesh healer, forgiver, rule-breaker, one who welcomes the worst of society, one who claims that He will live even after He dies, one who says He will one day come back to take the rest of us where He is.
Many people declare this story a myth, the stuff of a fairy tale, a story that only the weak, gullible, and uneducated would consider true.
I’ll admit I was a bit confused as a high school student until I visited the Holy Lands in the Middle East where this story of Jesus supposedly took place. This story became very believable as we read the Bible’s account of the life of Jesus while looking at the places and signs of His presence on this earth. I saw it with my own eyes.
And I’ve never been the same.
There is nothing anyone could say that will ever cause me to see it any other way. Since that journey into the lands where Jesus lived, I’ve personally experienced the virgin-born healer, forgiver, the one who died and came back to life.
I’ve personally experienced making decisions that did not make sense from a human standpoint, but made perfect sense according to the Bible. I’ve personally experienced the concept “give and it will be given to you.” I’ve personally experienced the “nudge” that makes no sense but turns into a relationship with a young lady who became my wife. I’ve personally experienced the “nudge” that had me walk away from my dreams as a college graduate to go to a place I’d never lived and take a job I never thought I’d want. I’ve personally experienced the extreme discomfort of the “nudge” that takes you out of your comfort zone, places you in a position that is very uncomfortable, and yet God uses in ways completely impossible and unlikely. I have personally experienced “water into wine” miracles, feeling as dirty as that woman at the well, yet being used by God to let all the “dirty folks” know they are in fact loved by God.
I was not there at the manger that night when a baby was born to a virgin mother. I was not there when the angels showed up. I’ve never witnessed a blind person see or a crippled person walk. But I have personally seen God use a reluctant, sinful, uneducated, and undeserving kid (me) lead a group of people to take radical steps of faith and build a church that has impacted a city.
I’ll never, ever be talked out of the journey that leads me to live by faith, be a voice of hope, and be known by love in my life, my home, my church, and my city.
Now you know why I’m so thankful to once again celebrate the arrival of God on the planet.