I often suffer from domestic blindness. I can find myself standing in front of the fridge, searching for the margarine, for what seems like ages, yet I cannot find it anywhere. I call out to my wife, “Anna, have we run out of margarine?”. Anna will then walk over and pick it off the shelf right in front of me. Sometimes things can be right in front of us, but we fail to see them.
When we read about the first Christmas, we observe several journeys taking place. Mary and Joseph are making their way to Bethlehem, shepherds are moving from the fields to see Jesus, and the Wise Men are travelling for weeks to visit the newborn King. However, the journey that we often overlook, the journey that we can be blind to, is the one described in John 1:14:
14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
On page one of the Bible, in the very first chapter of Genesis, God creates the world, not with a team of carpenters, plumbers or electricians, but by speaking it into existence with words. What John is conveying here is that God’s word entered into His creation. The word of God took on flesh, God’s word, who is Jesus, comes from God the Father to be born as one of us. Jesus, God the Son, comes from the glory of heaven and comes to lay in the filth of a manger. That is truly an astonishing journey.
On the very first Christmas, God came to us, revealing what He is truly like. We can often make the mistake of thinking God is waiting for us to initiate a move towards Him, thinking we need to shape up and get our lives in order before we come to Him. However, this is not the story of Christmas or how God was portrayed in the Bible. Such expectations are more aligned with Santa Claus, who maintains a list, checking it twice to determine who has been naughty or nice. In contrast, despite our naughtiness, failings, brokenness and sin, even when we had nothing to offer, God the Son made His move toward us. This is the God we meet in the manger – a God who does not stand at a distance, demanding that we clean up our act. Instead, Jesus comes to us in our filth, brokenness and weakness.
One of the truly epic journeys my family embarks on each Christmas is the trek through Sydney traffic to reach our Christmas lunch destination. I can remember one year being stuck in traffic with my wife balancing a goldfish tank on her lap, a fruit platter at her feet, and the kids becoming hot and frustrated in the back. It was an epic journey on par with Burke and Wills. However, the true journey that Jesus undertook on that first Christmas was not through Sydney traffic, and it was not even the journey from Heaven to the cradle. Jesus’ most crucial journey was, in fact, from the cradle to the cross. You see, the cross is where Jesus truly entered the mess of our world, revealing his true glory. It is where he gave his life as a gift to the world and extended a gift to each one of us – an offering from God to bring us home. He journeys into the very heart of our brokenness, travelling as far as he can to provide us with what we need.
We all work very hard to get things right at Christmas. We aim to serve the perfect food and give thoughtful presents. We want to get it right with all family relationships. However, the radically refreshing truth of Christmas is that we do not have to get it right with God. We do not need to meet a set of rules or perform specific rituals because God has already made it right for us. Jesus embarks on a journey from God to the cradle and then to the cross. It is this life-changing journey that we remember at Christmas time.