At the end of Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus and the manger scene, there are a few verses that catch my eye. In the middle of Luke 2, we read,
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’
But really, it’s the last verse in the passage that seems to catch my eye which may seem odd because it reads as a very simple sentence:
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
It’s this verse that helps me focus on the nativity scene. Here, in Bethlehem, the Messiah was born. A celebration free of balloons, streamers, and cigars. No media, little family, no fanfare. One would think the Savior of humanity would enter the world in style, not in this humble manger. But maybe in this subtle scene in Bethlehem, with Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, and the baby Jesus, we come across a portrait of what the Israelites had been anxiously awaiting for so long. They had found one they could truly worship. Fyodor Dostoyevsky writes that ‘it was the greatest need and comfort to find someone or something holy to fall down before and worship.’ This is what we find at the manger. The one that is worthy of worship. A tangible God.
One of my favorite passages in the bible is found in Habakkuk 2: 18-19:
What use is an idol once its maker has shaped it – a cast image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in what has been made, though the product is only an idol that cannot speak! Alas for you who say to the wood, ‘Wake up!’ to silent stone, ‘Rouse yourself!’ Can it teach? See, it is god and silver plated, and there is no breath in it at all.
In the manger, we see Jesus, the likeness of God, the fusion of divinity and humanity, wrapped in cloth. And we find one that is truly worthy of worship. No more golden calves. No more snakes. No more faith placed in the law. Jesus Christ. God wrapped in flesh. God’s breath giving him life. The greatest need of man fulfilled in the physical state that God had relegated himself to. Jesus. The one finally and truly worthy of our worship. Maybe the thing that bothers me with the birth of Jesus more than anything else is that although the suspended promises and prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled, that Jesus doesn’t seem to do squat with the first 27 years of his life. Promises are fulfilled, but only momentarily. We still wait to receive the good news for 27 years. Suspended promises still hovering. Then again, I guess that’s not all that different than Jesus’ death and resurrection. Once again, evil conquered and yet, the promise of the new heavens and the new earth still hanging over our heads. Maybe God just likes to tease us.