In an age of rising fascination with the supernatural, the sweet little Christmas narrative is an in-your-face supernatural saga of epic proportions. While there are dark elements that lurk in the shadows of the nativity story, it is ultimately one of light, life, and hope.
No blog post can do justice to this topic, even in breaking it down to one tiny aspect of the story. In some theological circles, any idea of the supernatural as a literal reality is dismissed or explained in naturalistic or allegorical terms. But for this article, I ask that you hold both the literal and the metaphorical aspects in both hands together.
God becoming a physical embryo, placing Himself in a virgin’s womb, and undergoing the process of human existence is preposterous. It raises far more questions that we can answer. How could He be both God and a physical human at the same time? Was He absent from heaven when He walked on the earth or was He still omnipresent? What about His DNA and chromosomes? I’m sure you’ve had many questions too.
Yet, this is what we are asked to believe. He became one of us.
We see examples of theophanies in the Hebrew Scriptures. God appeared in a variety of forms to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and others. But that wasn’t the same thing as becoming human. When God showed up as the Shekinah, the glorious Presence, at the tabernacle and temple, did that mean He wasn’t still on the throne in heaven? But in none of those examples, as marvelous as they were, did He walk around in human flesh and blood.
Jewish mysticism has a concept called tsimtsum, which means a reduction or contraction. It describes how the Creator of the universe, whose power, light, and sovereignty being far beyond anything we could imagine or encounter, can reduce his divine being into a form that is discernable to human senses. The Almighty becomes a reality that a person may meet without dying in the presence of His beauty and majesty. The Infinite become finite momentarily, for our sake. It’s the ultimate paradox.
I’m sure I didn’t do justice to that concept of tsimsum, but somewhere within that idea, is Immanuel, God with us. The Supernatural became natural by a supernatural act. The Invisible became material.
But He emptied Himself—taking on the form of a slave, becoming the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man. –Philippians 2:7 (TLV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. –John 1:14 (ESV)
He was fully God and fully human, to participate in His own story of the redemption and restoration of all creation. But it had to start with a gasp of earthly air and a mother’s arms wrapped around tender newborn baby skin.
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, – Colossians 2:9 (ESV)
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1: 19-20 (ESV)
He didn’t stay a baby. We shouldn’t remain spiritual babies in our narrow view of the Christmas story. It was an awesome, powerful, redemptive act. It’s a supernatural narrative. It began a process that hasn’t been completed yet, but by His grace, and through His Spirit in us, we now participate in that same story.