Wonder: The Humble Submission of Jesus

I don’t think I realized how many complications there could be with pregnancy until I became pregnant for the first time. Growing life is an amazing miracle, filled with complex details that have to progress just right in order for both baby and mother to be healthy.

In my pregnancy with my first child, things did not progress just right. Something in my body didn’t respond correctly to the presence of a baby. I developed severe preeclampsia. And for the sake of my baby’s health and mine, my son had to be delivered by c-section eight weeks early.

I have noticed that at Christmas, we tend to think of Jesus as a baby, and to think of Mary as a pregnant woman. But we rarely put those two thoughts together.

Have you ever reflected on Jesus’ time as an unborn baby?

I cannot wrap my head around the Son of God existing inside the body of a human being. Perhaps since God the Father was still sitting on throne of His sovereignty, there wasn’t a real risk that something would go wrong with Jesus’ growth in the womb.

But still, it seems so remarkably humbling to me.

Jesus submitted His existence to the inner workings of a young woman’s body. He came to earth not just as an infant, but as an unborn baby. As a being that looked at first, like a little tadpole, then slowly grew arms and legs, fingers, and toes. That developed a beating heart and functioning organs slowly, overtime, as his body absorbed nutrients consumed by his mother.

I want to know what that pregnancy was like. Did Jesus kick a lot? Was He an active baby, stretching his arms and legs, anxious to break free into the world? Or was He content to rest as He waited out the process of growth?

How did His body and Mary’s body struggle together in the birth process? Were the contractions strong? The labor arduous and slow?

Whatever the answers to those questions, it is the asking of them that brings me to wonder.

Jesus did not have to come this way. He could have come to earth as an adult. Or simply appeared on the doorstep of the Temple one day as a baby in a basket.

If He wanted to, Jesus could have skipped the pregnancy and birth part.

But when Jesus chose to enter into the human experience, He chose to enter it fully.

This beginning of life dependency is something all of us have in common. We grow inside the body of another, dependent on her for care and survival.

Jesus chose to submit to this humble beginning of life in the womb. He showed us the depth of what the name Immanuel, God with us, really means.

Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.

 

Advent Series Conclusion: the post-Christmas let down

Christmas is over. The gifts which looked so pretty under the tree just a few days ago are now scattered in messes around the house. Decorations which raised our spirits last week are now taunting us to take them down. Vacation days have ended and we are back at work, with more to do than before we left. The overeating of delicious treats has begun to take its toll on the fit of our pants. We are in the post-Christmas let-down.

Are we doomed to feeling a let-down around this time every year?

Decorations come down. Cheery carols are no longer played on the radio. Gifts are done being exchanged. If Christmas is about these things, the let-down is difficult to avoid.

But Christmas is not about these things. Christmas is really a celebration of Immanuel: God with us. We celebrate Immanuel at Christmas, because, as Matthew 1 points out, Jesus’ birth fulfills this promise.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”) – Matthew 1:22-23

However, this celebration does not end at Christmas. It did not even end when Jesus left this earth. Just as the first chapter of Matthew fulfilled the promise of God with us, the last chapter of Matthew continues it. Jesus’ final words are:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28:20

Immanuel is a truth that never changes. There does not need to be a post-Christmas let-down. We can celebrate the truth of Immanuel every day of the year.

We celebrate the truth of Immanuel first by remembering what it says about God.

Immanuel is the truth of a God whose deep desire is to be with His beloved for eternity. The truth of Immanuel is the truth of a Father who loves us so ferociously that He sent His Only Son to this earth. It is the truth of a Son who chose to live out every piece of the human experience, including the fragile life of a newborn, and the humble death of a criminal. It is the truth of a Spirit who lives inside of us and guides our daily lives.

We celebrate the truth of Immanuel second by remembering what it says about us. That we can live like God is with us.

That we can live according to how the Bible calls us to live, because God is with us. That we can pray about anything at anytime, because God is with us. That we can have the courage to face our fears, because God is with us. That we can love others more than we thought possible, because God is with us. That we can have forgiveness from our mistakes, because God is with us. That we can have purpose and meaning in our lives, because God is with us.

Christmas may be over. But the celebration of Immanuel can happen every day. It happens every time we approach God with confidence in His love. It happens every time we put the needs of others ahead of the needs of ourselves. It happens every time we root our identity in what God says and not what the world says.

The birth of Jesus did not just change the world once a year. It changed the world forever.

God is with us. Always. Immanuel means there is no post Christmas let-down.

(Were you not able to follow the Prepare Advent series? You may be interested in the most popular posts from it: Faith in the Promise, Fulfillment of the Law, Immanuel,  and Entering the Mess.)

 

Advent Series Day 9: Immanuel

If you didn’t know the story already, how would you think the Messiah would arrive on the earth? From what I have read in the prophecies of Genesis through Psalms, I might assume that God would send His Messiah onto the scene as a grown man. But, hundreds of years after David, a prophet named Isaiah appears in Israel, and says this is not how He will arrive.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14

Pregnancy is a mysterious thing. Some women get morning sickness, others do not. Some get cravings, others do not.  Some have babies so full of kicks that they can’t sleep at night, others look forward to the reassurance of the heart rate monitor because their babies are so still. Some gain tons of weight, others gain so little that they end up on a show called “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant.”

There is one thing, though, that all pregnancies have in common. In every pregnancy, the baby in the womb is dependent on his or her mother for survival. What she eats, how much sleep she gets, how stressed she is- all of these affect her unborn child.

Yet, it was God’s redemption plan that His Son would be conceived within a virgin. It is astonishing that the God who created humanity would put on human skin. And then, to not only become a human, but to become a fetus.

The incarnation baffles my mind.

The fact that the woman in whose womb the Messiah would reside is a virgin is not very surprising to me. If God is going to take such a drastic step as to become a fetus, I would expect the process to be different from a normal pregnancy.

In Matthew, it is confirmed that this is just the type of pregnancy Mary has.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:22-23

How the virgin birth takes place is a mystery. God never gives us the answer to that question. Because, that is not the right question to ask.

The question is not how- the question is why. Why would God’s Son confine himself to a womb for nine months?

God does give us the answer to that question: Immanuel.

The Messiah comes to save us. But it is not salvation from a distance. The Messiah is God with us. The Messiah is God going through every human experience personally. Knowing what it is like to be born, to scrape a knee, to have tears stream down His cheeks. And through it all, remaining sinless, trusting His Father, and staying on the mission to take the penalty of sin upon His shoulders.

The Messiah is humble. He

… being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. – Philippians 2:6-7

The Messiah is Immanuel.