I just hugged my five-year-old granddaughter a bit longer even than usual. She doesn’t know anything about what happened last week at Newtown, Connecticut. She doesn’t need to know. I wish I didn’t. The media had a duty to tell us; I doubt they have a duty to wallow in it.
On one Sunday just before Christmas several years ago, I found myself gazing at the front of the sanctuary and watching silhouetted shepherds themselves gazing upward in wonder, one of them pointing toward a brightly shining star just feet away from the arrangement of three crosses also displayed before us. It was a poignant reminder that in God’s wisdom Bethlehem and Golgotha are forever linked, two sides of the same amazing story of God’s love.
The Baby of Bethlehem drawing his first breath of air in the world he had spun into existence eons before was more than a baby. He was Immanuel, God with us, God in the flesh, God who came into this world laying aside the robes of royalty, willingly clothing himself in humanity to fully experience our joys and our sorrows, our triumphs and our tears.
I love the story told by author John Drescher about a little boy lying awake terrified by a storm one night. From his dark shadowy room he cries out to his father, “Daddy, come, I’m scared.”
Daddy replies, “Oh, son, God loves you and he’ll take care of you.”
But the boy isn’t satisfied, and he shouts back, “I know God loves me and that he’ll take care of me, but right now I need somebody with skin on.”
Our world did, too. And so God came “with skin on.” Immanuel. God with us. God sharing fully in the human situation from “the trauma of birth to the violence of death.” God feeling everything a human being can feel.
Christmas assures me that the God I worship is no absentee landlord who lives a million miles away leaving the poor tenants to aimlessly “do their own thing.”
Nor is our God a heavenly bureaucrat lost somewhere on a cloud shuffling paper and handing down rules to complicate a situation he knows nothing about.
God is not the sort of military officer who proposes daring offensives but has never led a charge from anywhere more dangerous than a warm command post where he might fall off a chair as he sits safely moving markers and flags around on a map.
Christmas assures me that God has been at the front. He’s seen the blood. And the most precious of all was his own Son’s who died so that one day death itself will die.
The wondrous story of Christmas is that with those stunned shepherds, all the angels and the universe itself watched awestruck at the depth of God’s love as he became what we needed most—Immanuel, God with skin on.
When in this twisted world, a madman tries to “out-Herod Herod” and more innocents die, a “God with skin on” who fully shares our pain and our tears is the God we need—and the God we have.
Bethlehem’s manger and Golgotha’s cross. A “God with skin on” gives them both meaning. And gives us hope through our tears.
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.