In 2006, Leisa and I had the privilege of visiting Israel. Needless to say it was one of the most amazing 10 days of my life. However, it wasn't without some unexpected disappointments. What I was really interested in seeing were the places and events I had read about in Scripture. What I wasn't prepared for was the presence of middle age churches (and some newer) built on the sites of Biblical events. There is a church where Moses was shown the promised land before his death, another church built over Peter's house, a church where (possibly) the Sermon on the Mount was preached, and the most disappointing of all, a church built on the site (again possibly) in Bethlehem where Jesus was born.
I supposed it shouldn't be surprising, considering our propensity to want to be near 'holy' objects. Just think of the middle age church's obsession with relics. But what is so ironic is that the Church of the Nativity as it's called is elaborate, ornate, and imposing, while the actual birth place of Jesus was anything but. Jesus was born, most likely in a cave where animals would be penned up for the night. He was laid in a manger; a trough for feeding animals. That manger has become an icon of the Christ. And it's meaning is extremely profound.
When I think of that event, I am humbled by the question of 'Why?' Why would God leave the glories of heaven and come to this earth in such a lowly manner? How is it possible that the Infinite God would become an infant? Surely we would imagine God coming in glory; elaborate, ornate, and imposing. We think that, because that's how we would do it ourselves.
Yet even beyond questioning the manner in which, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us", is the question that Jim McGuiggan raises in his book, The God of the Towel. Jim writes, "I must confess that the most perplexing part of my faith is the truth that God can be bothered with us." Why indeed? That question drives us back to the meaning of every icon of Christ; because he loves us. God want us to experience his love on a level we can understand. God doesn't want to overwhelm us, and he could - oh how he could. But that would leave us intimidated and defenseless against his power and desires. What if he had come initially as described in Revelation 19:11-19?
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on
it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages
war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His
head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no
one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe
dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And
the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean,
were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a
sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule
them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of
God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a
name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
What a Savior! How could you deny him? You couldn't! And maybe that's the point. For God to have a truly genuine love relationship with us, he had to let us be able to say, "No!" So God chose to place in a manger, a 7lb Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes. Some events like the Cross and Empty Tomb - blow me away, they are so epic in scope and power. The Manger on the other hand draws me in to that humble and silent moment of profound truth; God would even empty himself to love me.
I'm still amazed that God would be bothered at all with us, but aren't you glad he did.