I invite you take a moment, in this busy season, to just breathe. Be present in this body, in this moment, in this place, with these people.
I’m going to give you a moment of silence to reflect on this question: How are you feeling your human limitations? How are you frustrated by the things you aren’t able to fix? To control? To understand?
Whatever is coming to mind, hold onto that for a moment, as uncomfortable as it may be. We’ll return to it later.
As you probably know, Christmas is a time when we celebrate that the God of creation become a human, walked around on two human feet, spoke with one human voice, slept and ate and learned. Like us.
But what’s the point? Why did God feel the need to do this?
John 1:14 describes a remarkable situation: God took on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood. The almighty God of the universe came and lived among us, as an ordinary human being.
Christmas is a time to celebrate that God didn’t just speak to humans but became one.
God didn’t just say “wouldn’t it be nice for us to be together, for humans to know how to get along with me?”
I don’t think we’ll ever understand how this is possible (but that’s a part of the wonder and mystery of God)—somehow the eternal God of all creation became both God and human, at the same time. To show that ordinary human life doesn’t have to be separated from God. The way we see it, we are small, ordinary, and familiar and God is whatever the opposite of that is. But in God’s mind, the two are not so far apart.
God took on flesh and dwelt among us. Like us, God grew, matured, had to learn to walk and talk. Like us, God got sick, God got tired, God got frustrated. Like us, God had friends, got his feelings hurt, felt rejected. Like us, God was moved by a sunrise, had favorite food, responded to music. Like us, God had to deal with hard things, grieved loss. Like us, God had good and bad years, joys and challenges.
So even if we’re moved or inspired by that it still feels like it happened a long time ago. It’s ancient history. So what difference does it make today?
The Holy Spirit
When Jesus left earth he said we’d all have God’s spirit, we’d all be like him. Acts 2:17 says, “I will pour out my spirit on all people.”
So this story of Jesus, of God and humans being one, isn’t just something from the distant past, a story from Jerusalem 2000 years ago. And, this story of God and humans being one is not just something to look forward to, a hope to be with God one day after death.
Both the past history and future hope are real but feel so far away.
This story of Jesus is also a story of God being with us, now. We can be like Jesus, living with God’s Spirit in these ordinary human lives.
Because the story of God coming to earth to live in Jesus’ body is not only about God coming in Jesus’ body. The story includes an interesting twist. When Jesus is preparing to leave the earth, he promises that the same Spirit of God will be given to us, to be together with God now. He promises that this Spirit will connect us with God daily, in a real way, that the Spirit will comfort, encourage, guide, and strengthen us.
We may have to quiet ourselves. We may have to learn new ways to listen to still, small things. Because this Spirit will not force itself on us. But don’t let yourself imagine that means the Spirit isn’t present, real, or powerful.
I think you’ll agree—it hasn’t been an easy year. It’s tempting to lose hope, to let our anxiety lead. Remember the ways this year has been hard. Would any of those challenges and anxieties feel different if we knew God was not judging from distance but waiting for us to let him enter human experience, longing to guide, comfort us every step of the way?
What if, in every pain, every disappointment, every anxiety, every heartache, that Christmas presence is as available in us as it was in the body of Jesus all those years ago?
I want to invite you draw your mind back now to your earlier reflection. What came to mind when I invited you to feel your human limitation? What was your answer when I asked: How are you frustrated by the things you aren’t able to fix? To control? To understand?’
What if God is present in our limitations (not only in Jesus but in us)? What if because of Jesus, God knows how to meet us in our ordinary human life, to strengthen, guide, and comfort? What if God is not judging you for your inability to fix and control and understand everything? If he instead wants to free you from ways you judge yourself?
God’s not surprised that you’re not God. He’s convinced that something remarkable is possible when his Spirit is welcomed into a human life. This was true in the life of Jesus—and it’s also true in you.
Originally from Australia, Mandy Smith is a pastor, author, and speaker. She has written two books: The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry (IVP) and Unfettered: Imagining a Childlike Faith Byond the Baggage of Western Culture (Brazos).