The Magnitude of the Christmas Miracle
Matthew and Luke begin their stories of the life of Jesus with pieces of the traditional Christmas story—the record of a baby born in Bethlehem. John probably knew the Christmas story better than anyone else, for when Jesus hung on the cross he assigned John the task of caring for his mother. According to the records that have been passed along, when John moved to Ephesus, Mary lived in his home. But John does not record her memories of Jesus’ birth.
It’s as if John looked at what happened in Bethlehem, stepped back, and asked, “Do you have any idea what really happened here? This is not just any baby who was born in Bethlehem. This is the Maker of the universe who has become a baby human!”
So John opens his gospel by describing Jesus as “the Word,” stressing that Jesus was with God from the beginning and was God, that all things came into being through him, and that he was the life and the light of the world.
John wants us to marvel over the magnitude of this miracle.
It was nothing less than the Creator of the universe who took up residence in an amniotic sac for nine months.
The Limitless God, who stretched out the stars in the galaxies, kicked against the walls of his mother’s womb.
The Omnipotent—the All-Powerful—had to receive nourishment through an umbilical cord.
The One who is Invincible became the delicate weaving together of flesh and bones, ligaments and muscles.
The One who is Spirit and Truth was given eyebrows and fingernails.
The Almighty God was pushed through the birth canal then wrapped in swaddling cloths.
The One for whom the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest,” had to nurse at Mary’s breast and be burped on Joseph’s shoulder.
The All-Knowing God would have to learn how to walk and how to say, “Abba.”
About this incredible paradox, Augustine wrote, “Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak, that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.”
Luci Shaw expresses this wonderful mystery in “Mary’s Song”:
Blue homespun and the bend of my breast keep warm
this small naked star fallen to my arms.
(Rest…you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies the body of God sweetly.
Quiet he lies whose vigor hurled a universe.
He sleeps whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so light it seems no breath at all)
once ruffled the dark deeps to sprout a world.
Charmed by doves’ voices, the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes—
who overflowed all skies, all years.
Older than eternity, now he is new.
Now native to earth as I am, nailed to my poor planet,
caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended I must see him torn.