Christmas: God Can Be Known
If I could go back in time, I would choose the first century so I could see Jesus as a human being. I would miss certain luxuries of this life, like In-N-Out burgers. But imagine what it would have been like to see Jesus.
I wonder if he ever took a nap and woke to find all the disciples standing there, staring at him.
“What are you guys doing?”
“I don’t know. We’re just staring at you.”
He was God walking among them. How amazing must that have been?
The apostle John later wrote, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 NIV). The term translated as “heard” means “still ringing in our ears.”
When you look back over your life, there are certain memories that stay with you. Sometimes they’re childhood memories. Sometimes they’re bad memories. Sometimes they’re very wonderful memories. But there is something about certain experiences in life that are permanently etched in your mind, and you can recall them instantly. You remember the feeling. You remember the sound. You remember the smell. You remember details.
Basically, John was saying, “Look, we walked with him. We talked with him. We remember the timbre of his voice. We remember the color of his eyes.” By the way, they never told us the color of his eyes or hair or skin. That doesn’t matter, because Jesus Christ came for all people.
Jesus walked this earth, but some would assert that it’s all fiction, that it’s just something Christians made up. It’s an undisputable fact that Jesus walked this earth over 2,000 years ago. We divide human time by his life and his death. This is verified in extrabiblical sources from historians like Josephus, as well as Roman historians like Flavius, Pliny and Tacitus.
If these are lies, then they are the stupidest lies ever concocted, because these accounts were written down during the lifetime of the people who were there.
The Gospels, of course, are also historical documents. In fact, Luke penned the third Gospel as someone who interviewed the people involved in the story. Luke was not one of the original apostles. He investigated the facts and did his report. Luke probably sat down and interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus. Perhaps he interviewed the shepherds and maybe the wise men. He interviewed the apostles. He got all the details and wrote them down.
That is why the Christmas story does not begin with the words “once upon a time.” Rather, it begins, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria)” (Luke 2:1-2 NIV).
This pinpoints it in time. We know who Caesar Augustus was and when he lived, so these are specific details given to us in the Scriptures.
“We saw these things,” John was saying. “We heard these things, and here’s why we wrote it all down: so you could have the same relationship with God.” That is really the message of Christmas: God is with us, and God can be known.
Jesus Christ was fully God, and Jesus Christ was fully man. He wasn’t a man who became God. That’s impossible. He was God who became a man. What could be more human than Jesus falling asleep on the boat as they crossed the Sea of Galilee? And what could be more divine than Jesus, after being awakened by the disciples, rebuking and stopping the storm?
What could be more human than being beaten, having the beard plucked from your face, having nails driven through your hands, and feeling excruciating pain? But what could be more divine than the sky going dark? What could be more divine than the veil in the temple, inches of interwoven material separating the Holy of Holies, being ripped – not from bottom to top but from top to bottom? What could be more divine than the earthquakes that hit when Christ was dying for the sins of the world?
Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. He was God with skin on.
Jesus became one of us without ceasing to be himself. He became human without ceasing to be God. The Bible tells us that “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV).
Pastor and author Mark Batterson put it this way: “The Omnipresent One downsized to the confines of a human womb. The Omnipotent One became a helpless baby that had to be fed and nursed and burped. … He became nothing so that we could become something.”
He came for all of us. Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, left the glories of heaven because he wants a relationship and a friendship with us. God has walked among us, in our shoes, experiencing the challenges and difficulties and problems of life. And the Bible tells us he “has been temed in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV).
Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, had a friend named Charles Steinmetz who was a mechanical genius. One day Ford had a problem that none of his people could fix. So he called for Charles. Charles tinkered for a while, and things ran smoothly once again. Afterward he sent Ford a bill for $10,000.
Henry Ford questioned the amount and requested a new, itemized bill. So Charles sent a revised bill, which read: Tinkering: $10. Knowing where to tinker: $9,990. Charles knew where to tinker.
In the same way, when your life is broken, God knows where to tinker. He knows where the problem is because he has walked among us.
Greg Laurie is a pastor, an author of a number of books, a producer of a few films, and a preacher at evangelistic events called Harvest Crusades.