And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Luke 1:26-33 (KJV)
Today, Christians around the world are in full Christmas mode – attending churches, saying prayers, singing carols and exchanging gifts in remembrance of the birth of their Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth.
We will also be reading from the familiar passages in the Gospel of Luke that describe the circumstances of the Virgin Birth – an event like no other in the history of the world.
There have been movies and books about these events. But most have focused, understandably, on the notable obedience and sacrifices of Joseph and Mary in bringing the baby Jesus into the world.
But, have you ever thought about what that experience was like for Jesus?
We all know how Jesus sacrificed himself for us at the end of His mortal life – the excruciating tortures he endured, the humiliation, the death on the cross. But at this time of the year, I often think about the sacrifice He, the co-creator of the universe, made temporarily to give up His omniscience, His omnipotence, His almighty powers and His seat at the right hand of God and to live inside the womb of a young Jewish girl named Mary and to submit himself to the protection of an obscure Jewish carpenter named Joseph.
He literally stepped down from heaven into a fallen world of danger and deception. He even, presumably, had to disengage from His own divine consciousness to become a helpless embryo. He had to be born under trying circumstances following a rough 70-mile walk by his parents from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
He gave up all the unimaginable riches and untold wisdom of the universe to be born in a barn and laid in an animal trough.
But, most of all, try to imagine what it was like sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven contemplating this idea of becoming utterly helpless and, for at least a period of time, presumably, clueless!
Like any other child, Jesus was born not knowing how to walk or talk. How many of us would be willing to trade our own lives and consciousness as even as adult mortal human beings to re-enter the world that way, again?
That’s what Christmas represents to me. Even though we all know He wasn’t born on Dec. 25, thinking about what Jesus did when He chose to be born as an innocent babe is every bit as awe-inspiring as contemplating Jesus’ death and Resurrection.
We often talk about and ponder the Ascension. But what about the Condescension that took place when Jesus became, first, an unborn baby and later on that day in Bethlehem, a vulnerable little infant who would be hunted down by Herod – who would grow up to die an ugly death on the cross?
Believers acknowledge the sacrifice Jesus made on Calvary. But, truly, we ought to consider the sacrifice He made the day He willingly stepped down from heaven in the Virgin Birth, which might also be termed the Miraculous and Mysterious Condescension.
Merry Christmas. And thank you, Jesus!
The angel Gabriel appears to the virgin Mary in 1898’s ‘The Annunciation’ by Pennsylvania artist Henry Ossawa Tanner