In the narrative of Mark 9: 33-37, we see the disciples of Jesus in a discussion of who is the greatest.
In a reversal of standards, as Jesus often does, he states that being a servant is the greatest status to which one may attain. The disciples are caught red-handed and red-faced in their naive exploration of greatness.
Jesus then brings a child forward, takes the child in his arms and speaks of the importance of welcoming a child as being of paramount importance in Kingdom matters. As I read this passage this week and as Christmas draws near, I made an unexpected comparison of this narrative with the child in the manger story.
I recognize fully that the date of December 25 as the date of Christ’s birth is quite arbitrary and it is tradition which establishes this time of year as celebration of Christ’s birth.
But I have come to like this tradition because it provides an occasion to reflect on the rich theology of the incarnation. I know we get concerned because of the mixture of red nosed reindeer and talking snowmen being interwoven with discussions of deity.
And it is all too possible to let this season be an excuse to put Jesus up as some kind of holiday ornament only to take him down in January. But I’m going to look at this as the proverbial glass “half-full” and make the most of the opportunity to speak of Jesus. “The Word become flesh and the one who came to make his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
So let’s stroll over to the manger and ponder a bit.
There was a baby Jesus born long ago to a young Jewish virgin named Mary.
She and her betrothed Joseph were caught up in a scandalous situation. There is drama, there is tragedy and there is triumph. It’s a good story. It is a marvelous piece of history to remember and to reflect upon. Although I think the strain of redemption’s song is never heard clearer than at Calvary, in our rush to the cross, let’s not miss the strains of the same song being sung at the scene of the child.
Baby Jesus, God incarnate (in the flesh). Of a certainty, it is a story about a child but not a child’s story. This is grown up theology.
Which is the greater story of God? The scene at the stable or the scene at the Skull?
I propose that these narratives are interwoven.
They tell the same truth.
The Jesus we observe on the cross is a living, fully functional human. He is God and he is man. The death on the cross is not diminished by the child in the manger, it is enhanced. You will only fully comprehend the man on the cross if you have contemplated the child in the manger.
I make it my life’s ambition to direct attention to the man on the cross. It was here that God spoke love in His clearest, most unmistakable terms. But God was also speaking clearly through the rag-wrapped baby known as Immanuel.
So….for a time….let’s pause and reflect more carefully on the lesson of the child. More than once he used a child to communicate things vital to comprehending the Kingdom . Perhaps at this season, the man Jesus would point to the babe in the manger and have us gaze upon him in wonderment, amazement and awe.