By Anthony Casperson
Two years ago, I took the month of December to remind us all that the season of Christmas isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. With the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas being the most common timeframe for suicide, that should be obvious, but we often need reminders of such things.
Last year, I led us through an Advent discussion. Hope, love, joy, and peace took center stage as we looked at Jesus. His first coming, his death, his resurrection, and his second coming pointed our thoughts to the real reason for Christmas. Our eyes focused on our Savior.
It’s kinda strange that for the same season of year I can talk about depression, anxiety, and loneliness as well as hope, joy, and acceptance by the Creator of the universe. Well, it only sounds strange if we don’t take into account who our Savior is. Our God isn’t one to look down on, or think badly of, people who suffer. He joins us in our humanity. He enfleshed himself to experience the joys and the pains of this life.
Though many of us feel alone in the cold of the season, he intimately knows what we feel. So, for these four weeks, I want to focus on Jesus as he relates to us in our pain. I want us to realize that we’re not alone in the dark. The Light of the world has been where we are and calls us to more than suffering.
And where better to begin this discussion than the all-powerful God who took on the form of a baby, to a poor couple, in the barn’s feeding trough?
I mean, think about it. Here’s this all-powerful being who speaks things into existence. The earth trembles at his presence. But when he decides to wrap himself in humanity, he comes as a helpless baby, among the most common people, in a small suburb of a giant city. The only reason why anyone even knows about Bethlehem at the time of his birth is because one famous person (King David) was born there also.
And it’s not like Joseph and Mary were natives of the city. No, they were there because the oppressive government wanted to flex its military and taxation powers by figuring out exactly how many people were under their control. They forced people to travel to the towns of their forefathers to be part of the census. Because a cross-country hike is exactly what a pregnant woman needs right before she gives birth.
Born in the unclean conditions of a barn, which was likely built into a cave, the God of the universe entered the human race. But because an earthly king worried for his own power, the small family didn’t rest in their journey. They continued down to Egypt. Fugitives from a blood-thirsty usurper.
Eventually they returned, crossing the country again. And they settled in Nazareth. Later on in Jesus’ life, a future disciple would ask, “How could something good come out of Nazareth?” As if that were the part of the country nobody would admit to coming from.
The Word, the second Person of the Trinity, came into this world as a nobody from nowhere. He could have born a prince in the grandest of royal houses, surrounded by the glory due God in human flesh. The placement and time of his birth was planned by the Triune God before the foundation of the world. They could have chosen anything for the incarnation.
And they chose this?!
Yeah, the Godhead chose that Jesus would be born as a nobody, a peasant king, not because he wasn’t worth more, but because we’re worth that much to God. Jesus entered the world as a commoner by common birth. Sure, there’s the miracles and the prophecies surrounding him, but for the world at large, that night was like every other night.
It goes to prove that we don’t need the best birthplace, or upbringing, or education, or family, or connections, or anything else for God to use us for his grand purposes. Jesus came as he did as a way to experientially understand what it is to be a normal human. Most of us aren’t born in palaces or with wealth. Many of us won’t have the best trajectory because of our backgrounds.
But Jesus experienced it too. He knows. He understands. When we struggle with broken families, fractured self-images, prejudice, lack of resources, and so much more, we don’t serve a God who turned his back on us, or hates us, or laughs at us. No, we followers of Jesus serve the God who became like us to save us.
Many of us will struggle this time of year, but the God of the universe stands with arms wide open, ready to embrace us in the midst of the struggle.