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When God Became Real

Luke 1:26-45

Jim Davis

Secular history leaves us with the belief that the Caesars, the kings and the presidents shape the world. Most items considered newsworthy revolve around these powerful figures, as they demand front-page headlines. In 1809 the newspapers were captivated with stories about Napoleon's campaigns. International attention was focused on Napoleon marching across Austria. Little else was news worthy, especially the birth of babies which were born that year. It seemed as though Napoleon was the only one shaping the destiny of the world. 1

Actually the world's destiny was being shaped in the cradles of the world. It was the year 1809 that William Gladstone was born and he was to become the greatest statesman that England ever produced. Alfred Lloyd Tennyson was born that year to a poor minister and his wife; he was destined to shape the literary world. Oliver Wendell Holmes was born that same year in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Edgar Allen Poe began his tragic life that same year. It was also that same year Charles Darwin was born. That same year in a log cabin in Hardin County Kentucky a baby named Abraham Lincoln was born. At the time these individuals were born their births were insignificant in the eyes of the world. After all the destiny of the world was being shaped by Napoleon on the battlefields of Austria.2

In 1 BC Caesar August was one of the most powerful Caesars. It was said of him that he came to a Rome made of bricks and left it a city of marble. He transformed the world, not just Rome, but the entire known world with his roads and armies. Mourners at his funeral comforted themselves with the belief that he was a god and therefore immortal. They believed Caesar had shaped the world.3

As we read Luke's account of Christ's birth, the world was in a hustle and bustle trying to get back to the city of their birth for a census. Caesar had commanded that a census would be taken and the whole world stood to its feet. (Luke 2:1-2) In the commotion of Caesar's world, the world took little note as to what was happening in Bethlehem.

Luke 2:1-3
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.) And everyone went to his own town to register. (NIV)
The world snapped to attention  when Caesar gave the order. Caesar's edict was the most important thing happening in their world and no one even imagined that God was about to enter the world.
 
Luke 1:26-45
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth; a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. (NIV)


The Insignificance of Christ's Birth is Confusing

I can hardly believe the birth of Christ. In fact, the concept of Christ's birth sets my mind in turmoil. It is not because what I read here seems impossible. As the angel said, "For nothing is impossible with God." Throughout the Bible we see heavenly beings appearing in different forms. The angels appeared to Abraham as ordinary men, spoke to Balaam through the mouth of a donkey, appeared in a fiery furnace in the book of Daniel and now we find one speaking to Mary about the birth of God's Son. I understand that heavenly beings do not have the physical limitations we humans do. My difficulty does not lie in the virgin birth. Even in our day of artificial insemination, a virgin could have a child and could remain a virgin for the rest of her life. (Of course, Mary didn't remain a virgin after Jesus' birth. In Mark 6:2, Mark names four of Jesus' brothers and states that he had at least two sisters. We don't know how many sisters; we do know "sisters" means at least two. So Mary had at least six other children besides Jesus.) The virgin birth of Christ does not tax my belief in God's power. I know God can do the impossible; he always has and always will.

What puzzles me is why did God have to send his Son in the first place? It is certainly not how those with worldly authority would have handled the situation. With all authority and all power, couldn't God have straightened out this mess by simply giving orders from his throne room? At the time of Christ's birth, all Caesar had to do to bring the world to its feet was issue an order that the whole world should have a census. Everyone did what he or she was told. Even today when natural disasters occur, many of those in authority take a helicopter and view the damage from afar. They may land and talk to one or two disaster victims. Then they go back to their ivory towers and enact legislation to help the disaster victims.

If you are going to send the Prince of Life into the world, why not prepare a robe, a crown and an ivory palace for his arrival? At least have him born in Caesar's palace in royal splendor with all the pomp and ceremony of a real earthly prince. Why have the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords born in a cattle stall? Why such a lowly birth?

God didn't grab the news headlines about the birth of his Son. Why such disgraceful circumstances? If God is going to send his Son into the world, why not have him born in gracious circumstances? Why has the Christ child come through a race the rest of the world considered despicable? Why have him born in questionable circumstances? A single teenage girl seems to raise the question of illegitimacy. (John 8:41) It would be a sword others would use to pierce the soul of his mother till her dying day. (Luke 2:35) Why should he have a stepfather and be conceived by a single mother? Why would you want the Christ child living with a poor family of at least nine (Mark 6:3), with no private room and deprived of his own telephone and television? Surely the Son of God is too holy to share such circumstances; he deserves more.

Earlier in Luke's first chapter, Zacharias prepares to go into the Holy Place to offer up incense with the prayers of the saints. Only the priest could approach God's presence at specific times. In this first chapter of Luke, God removes the distance in one clean sweep. He reveals his plans to enter humanity as the Christ child. No hype, no ceremony, no ivory, he comes in the most ordinary way to identify with the most ordinary of humanity. So much for that cosmic God . . . a trillion miles away . . . he is now one of us . . . so human as he walks the roads of Galilee . . . there appears to be nothing that marks him as divine. A God who appeared as ordinary, as the most ordinary. No halo, no shinning armor, no flashy clothes, no great physique, no glowing eyes of fire, no flaming sword, and just an ordinary fellow.

Christ's birth makes me wonder, why did he have to experience a human birth? Why didn't God send his Son in a spaceship like Superman? He could have come " . . . faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive to fight for truth and justice . . . " An extra-terrestrial being could have demonstrated a wisdom and power far above the norm. At least that would seem more acceptable to some.

I stood and watched my grandson, Dakota, play with his Batman, Robin and his toy soldiers. In his fanciful imagination he was caring on a dialog with them. He was in an imaginary world all of his own making, he didn't realize I was watching. It was a way of escape for him. I had told him to go play and I would take him to McDonalds for lunch. He is just passing time, but I knew that it would only be a few moments before he came back to the real world. Then he would run in and say, "papaw, I am ready to go to McDonalds."

Strangely, many of us live in an imaginary world where we fantasize about the way things ought to be or we have our minds made up about the way things are. The way I initially imagine that God should send his Son into the world is largely fantasy. It is fantasy because my concept of becoming great is not real. That is why God descended to earth in human form to such a lowly status, he wanted to bring humanity back to reality. He did so to become a real person to you and me.

The Word Became Real

Imagine living in a world where God is so distant, so far removed. Oh, he exists, but he is out there in the cosmos somewhere . . . perhaps a trillion light years away. We consider God as unapproachable as those who snap their fingers to make the world come to its feet. When the Word became flesh, God became real, he became dependent upon the same air we breath to sustain life. When God became the son of Adam, he became so human that most lose sight of his divinity. It seems as though the scriptures are as intent on stressing Jesus' humanity as they are on stressing his deity. Paul wrote, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 2:5 NIV) God descended to the lowest status earth had to offer and the Word became flesh . . . the Word became real.
 

Matthew 1:23
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-- which means, "God with us." (NIV)


There was no time in all creation that God came closer or became more real than when Jesus walked the earth. Not that he hasn't always been real, but now he is as human as he is divine. Even in the purity of Eden God was still God, although he walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, he was still God. But when Jesus came, God became man. He was never more like God than when he came to be with us. It was when he became man, that he demonstrated the breadth, depth and height of his existence.
 

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

Hebrews 2:6-15
But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (NIV)


Christ didn't visit planet earth for a photo opportunity, but he came to share the ill effects of sin. Instead of briefly visiting the destruction site, Christ came to experience the loss.  He came to share in the reality of our humanity. To me it's a strange way for the most power being, Almighty God, to demonstrate his power over sin.

The Rebirth of Humanity

Imagine how Mary felt to give birth to God. God confining himself to the womb of a teenager. Yet, it is something God does each time a person is spiritually reborn. Heaven actually descends overshadowing our lives as it takes up resident in our souls. Heaven simply descends to fill humanity with all the fullness of the divine. Confining his existence on earth to the souls of the saints, not to just be born of us, but to experience a new birth within each of us. Maybe this is what makes it so hard to believe. God is no longer born of men, but rather, men and women are born of God, as God is reborn in each of us.
 

I John 3:9
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. (NIV)

John 1:11-13
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (NIV)


To be a son of a god in the ancient world was to proclaim deity for oneself. The Pharaohs and the Caesars proclaimed such for themselves. But this left the rest of the world feeling left out. When God descended, he descended with the sole purpose of making everyone his sons and daughters, God places his seed in each of us to experience a rebirth in each of us. God becomes real to the world when he comes to life in ordinary individuals like you and me. In God's descent, he didn't come to just be born of woman; God came to be reborn in each of us so that we might partake of his own divine nature.
 

1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (NIV)

2 Peter 1:3-4
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)


When Jesus Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, at that moment God made it possible for us to be reborn spiritually. He made it possible for each of us to be forgiven. He shared his holiness with each of us; of course we must accept it. As we choose to share his holiness, God takes up resident in our hearts and begins to be reborn in each of us as we partake of his divine nature. Since we are created in God's image, God wants his image to be reborn in each of us.

Conclusion:

There is a lot going on in our world at the present. Impeachment of a president, bombing Iraq and a million other things that seem to be shaping our world. Yet, the most important thing shaping your world is what God is doing in your heart. That is the most important thing shaping your future. What God is doing in the hearts of men and women is the most important thing going on in the world and it is what is shaping the future of our world.

1 Charles Swindoll, The Christian Life ( Multnomah Press) pp.121
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
 
 
 

 

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