At Christmas time we celebrate that God became incarnate in Jesus Christ and walked amongst us. This is an amazing, world-altering idea. God in flesh. For years before Jesus, if you wanted to be in God’s presence you would have to go to the temple. The temple was the normative place of the presence of God in the creation. It was His dwelling place.
Inside the Old Testament temple was the holy of holies, which was God’s throne room. Inside of the throne room was the famous ark of the covenant that contained the Ten Commandments. The Bible teaches that this wooden box was the footstool of God. This was the place where heaven and earth met. It was a sacred, holy place. Only the high priests, the holiest of the holy men, were permitted direct access to God’s presence in the holy of holies. And even then, special sacrifices had to be made and ceremonial cleansing rituals for them to enter into God’s presence in the holy of holies.
This all changed when Jesus was born. Because Jesus is God incarnate, all you have to do to find the presence of God is find Jesus. When you’re with Jesus, you’re with God. Jesus is the person in whom heaven and earth meet.
There are a number of things that amazing about this. The first is that because of Jesus, sanctimonious rituals are no longer required to be in Jesus’s presence. Jesus says to all, “Come as you are.” God’s presence isn’t simply for the pious—clergy and priests. All are welcome at Jesus’s table. People can now sit and have a meal with Jesus—God in flesh.
Another amazing concept wrapped up in the incarnation of God is the fact that Jesus was willing to give up all his privileges of being God to become human. Philippians 2:6-8 says, this about Jesus: “[Jesus], who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by becoming in the likeness of people. And being found in appearance like a man, he humbled himself.”
This reminds us that Christmas is not only about getting filled up with good food and presents, but also about being emptied. Jesus was emptied on Christmas. He emptied himself of His divine privileges. He didn’t grasp at all that He had like we do to our traditions and presents on Christmas. Jesus let it all go for the sake of others.
I would guess that Christmas is the most anticipated holiday in North America. The expectations are endless on Christmas. There are things we expect to do, foods we expect to eat, songs we expect to sing, movies we expect to watch, music we expect to hear, gifts we expect to give, gifts we expect to get, people we expect to see, so on and so forth. Christmas is filled to the brim with expectation.
I wonder what it means to let go this Christmas. I wonder what it would mean to loosen our grip on all of our expectations and let Jesus—God in flesh—fill our Christmas like he did the manger on the night of His brith. Rather than grasp at all of these expectations and hold onto them tightly, I wonder how it would be different if we held our expectations lightly. Jesus emptied himself to be open to the will of the Father on Christmas and it resulted in the salvation of the world. I wonder what would happened if we, in the likeness of Christ, emptied ourselves of expectations and just simply asked, “Where does God want to meet me and my family this Christmas?”