A helpless newborn baby in swaddling clothes lying in a borrowed manger isn’t exactly the expected image of ultimate, cosmic, all-powerful, Godly glory. But then, you can’t always tell a gift by how it’s wrapped.
Isn’t the biggest surprise and rarest pleasure under the tree the gift you completely didn’t expect? The gift someone picked out because they love you and had a better grasp of what you needed than your own idea of what you wanted? And it was perfect?
That is the glory of Jesus Christ – the full glory of God (John 1:14; 13:3, Hebrews 1:1-4, Revelation 5:13) – who came not to punish man’s earthly appetites and prideful vices but to reveal God’s glory in unselfish, loving relationship and divine freedom.
That is a gift mankind, prior to Jesus, could not even imagine. Nor is it a gift that fallen humanity, for the most part, has ever greeted easily, cheerfully, thankfully and with the appropriate species-wide sense of relief. No, our Satan-delivered fallenness leads us to think we already know what we need. We expect God to deliver something in line with our own narrow, worldly expectations.
Everything mankind needs to know about the coming of Jesus Christ and the revelation of God’s glory is in the Old Testament. Today, with an actual printed and annotated Old Testament as a reference, the prophecy can be plainly understood. But in Biblical times even pious Jews deeply versed in Hebrew law, history and prophecy deemed God’s glorious, ultimate plan of graceful salvation in humble Jesus too fantastic, too counter-intuitive, too “out-there” to be believed.
Almighty God was power and glory and wrath and laws. A savior coming in weakness (a baby) and humility (a manger) to deliver divine love (not wrath) and freedom (not laws), to defeat death (after being crucified) and erase our sins (covered by His blood), while demanding only faith (not legal obeisance) and faithful works (not rituals) was not only opposite everything the Jews believed, it was flat-out unthinkable.
Of course the prophets, because they were getting their information from God, were dead-on accurate about God’s plan. But it was a hard life being a Hebrew prophet. No one understood God’s radical gift of salvation – eternal life – by the divine love, selfless service and mysterious forgiveness embodied in the coming Christ.
Contemplating baby Jesus and the crucified Christ, mankind often asks the wrong question, “How could this weak God solve mankind’s earthly problems?”
Truth is, our biggest problems are eternal, not earthly, and the unexpected gift of God’s glory found in Jesus Christ – boldly unwrapped – is the only solution.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) spent most of his life leaving the gift of Christ unwrapped, under the tree.