I was watching an episode of The Chosen the other night. In that particular episode the disciples were talking to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and asking about His birth. She described her surprise that He came forth from the womb covered in blood and amniotic fluid, that He was crying and cold and desperately needed her.
Now in this cynical age we might be tempted to think, “Well, what did you expect Mary?” But let’s be honest. If we weren’t so familiar with the story (and the process of birth) and someone told us the Son of the Living God was going to be born to the virgin teenager next door, we would conjure up some very different images from what actually took place. We would likely imagine Mary reclined on a velvet couch, surrounded by a choir of angels singing “Aaaaahhhhh” in perfect pitch with beams of light pouring from Mary’s body as Jesus painlessly entered the world, clean and shiny and walking out to greet the world. You think that’s a stretch? Consider how clean and tidy all those pictures from the Renaissance look. Consider how much we’ve sanitized the story to fit in with our Christmas celebrations. If you were starting a new religion in the first century or even today, you certainly wouldn’t have the Son of God being born in the most ordinary of ways and totally dependent on a servant girl and her carpenter husband.
The theologians used to speak of the condescension of God in the incarnation of Christ. In our day, we view condescension as negative, thinking that someone who is condescending has a superiority complex and thus looks down on others with contempt or indifference. Originally, it referred to the kindness of a king to one of his subjects so it is a beautiful term in regard to what God has done for us. The God who is infinitely superior to us in every possible way looked down upon us, the ones He created and the ones who rebelled against Him and had compassion on us. He didn’t have to do it and we didn’t deserve it, but out of love for the Father and love for us, the Son of God set aside all the benefits of deity and came to live among us. If He had come in pristine fashion into a royal palace with angels singing backup it would have been an infinite step down and yet, He came farther. He entered into the lowest possible station in life and was born in the most absurdly normal way possible. He was born into poverty, grew up in poverty, lived as a homeless wanderer and died with nothing to His name, not even the clothes on His back. In all our imaginations about how God might save the world, this one never crossed our minds.
Ever since the Garden, we have believed that we have to climb our way up to God. Every religion of the world, in some sense, thinks of God as sitting at the top of a high mountain and we must make our way up to Him, that we must somehow prove our worthiness to be near Him by keeping some set of rules, stipulations or guidelines. Christianity is the only faith that says that God has come down to us and He says to us, “I’ve come to rescue you, because you’ll never make it on your own.” It’s grace and love and kindness and mercy that the infinite God would even deem to notice us, but that He would come to us and be made like us so that one day we might be made like Him, that’s amazing! May we never lose the wonder of it all!