Merry Christmas!! Hopefully you’re reading this post as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with those you love. Perhaps you’ve stumbled upon this post and Christmas isn’t quite so “merry” this year, and loved ones are not gathered near. It’s possible you’re reading this post and you don’t really even celebrate Christmas, or at least don’t attach to it any specific religious significance. If that’s you, I hope you’ll read on, and I pray you will be encouraged.
Much like this El Greco painting, there is a baby in the center of my family’s celebration of Christmas. That baby is no ordinary baby; as the angel said to Mary, “You shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1: 31-33).
How do you picture Jesus? There has been some buzz recently about a new artist recreation of what Jesus actually looked like. () But In El Greco’s nativity, Jesus, Mary and Joseph have the same appearance as El Greco’s own friends and neighbors. The song “Some Children See Him” imagines children seeing Jesus as “lily white,” “bronzed and brown,” “almond-eyed,” and “dark as they,” finally concluding that “The children In each diff’rent place Will see The baby Jesus’ face Like theirs”.
I think most of us tend to imagine Jesus looking like us. But the prophet Isaiah says
“Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Isaiah’s description doesn’t fit our imaginings. It certainly isn’t like most of the pictures I see of Jesus. We don’t often think of this passage when we think of baby Jesus in His little manger, but this passage gives us the reason Jesus came as a baby so many years ago. Isaiah continues:
“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus came as a baby to go to the cross for sinners. He didn’t come just to be a good example or a good teacher. He didn’t come to start a revolution. He came to be crushed. He came to be stricken. He came to be pierced. He came to be smitten by God. For us. Not just for those of us who have Pinterest worthy homes; not only for those of with homes full of cheerful loving families. He came for wounded, broken, sinful people – for everyone who will turn to him.
Christ is the true gift at Christmas. Almighty God took on human form and was born to a family in poverty. He would not grow up with wealth and comfort. He would not grow to assume worldly power. He would grow up to take a cross and die so that we might have forgiveness for sins and be reconciled to God. As the great missionary and pastor Paul of Tarsus once wrote, “[This is] the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Not rich in stuff, but rich in that spiritual wealth that only comes through Christ.
That is the real message of Christmas. This year, see the manger in light of the cross.
If you are wondering how all this can be true or how it affects you, please have a read here and leave me a comment below.
Regardless of what your Christmas celebrations may or may not look like this year. For all who trust in Him, you have a Father who gave His son as the best gift you could ever receive. That is indeed cause for joy this season.