“For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”
- Hebrews 2:17
I have known the Christmas story since I was old enough to understand complete sentences. It was a traditional piece of my family’s annual Christmas morning celebration. It came right after the early morning chaos of opening presents and right before we lit the candle on the angel food cake and sang happy birthday to Jesus, while sipping from our mugs of hot chocolate. My wife and I continued the tradition with our sons and I’m confident that some of them continue it with their children to this day.
Of course by the time I was old enough to have my own kids, I understood that the meaning of Christmas and the reason we celebrate it is that God became a man. I fully accepted that as factual truth and understood why it is such a central truth of Christianity. As the Scripture above implies, only a human can die for another human. The death of a sheep or a goat or a bull doesn’t count for the forgiveness of a human. And only God, whose life has infinite value, can die for all humans. Therefore Jesus, the God-man, was the only one who could pay the penalty for the sins of the world of humans.
However, in spite of my doctrinal accuracy and because of my familiarity with the Christmas story, I now realize that for a long time I was inoculated against the wonder of that Christmas truth, God became a man. What a come-down for the Creator! There is no earthly illustration that does it justice. To imagine, for example, that a human being, in all the complexity of our physical and psychological makeup, chose to become a single-cell amoeba in order to rescue all amoebae from certain destruction only gives a hint of what God did at Christmas.
The wonder doesn’t come by merely reciting the doctrinal truth nor even reading the Christmas story annually. The wonder grows in us as we ponder and savor the implications of “God became man,” implications about the heart of God for us and about our appropriate response to Him. I encourage you to find some quiet moments in the midst of all the Christmas festivities to ponder, savor, and let yourself feel the wonder.