7 ways Baby Jesus is relevant to modern-day challenges.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
The cute baby in the sweet nativity scene. The headliner in our favorite carols. The adorable star of assorted seasonal knickknacks, arts, and crafts. It may seem that Jesus in his infant form can be minimized, vanillafied, his world-changing impact mentally postponed into adulthood or even relegated to quaint holiday tale. In reality, right from the start, the baby Jesus was a revolutionary force with enduring impact, dispatched to solve our heart problem: Sin with all its many destructive side effects. Baby Jesus remains the ultimate problem-solver. Here are seven ways the manger baby offers practical insight for our modern-day troubles.
1. Baby Jesus was unaffiliated.
Jesus was not a member of the religious or Roman elite. He didn't claim any social status or financial privilege, nor did he invoke any national, political, or organizational allegiance. Even as a Jew, Jesus was an outlier. In fact, Jesus had no clear affiliation of any kind, apart from to God.
Jesus upsets the establishment. In fact, a lot of them.
These days, so many claim the moral high ground, the right to be right, the remedy to our ills, even daring to claim the corner on Jesus himself, each invoking a particular subset of Christian teachings that best serve their end. This usually involves overlooking some other Christian precepts that are equally essential. Yet peace, harmony, moral integrity, justice, and real solutions to an ever-growing list of problems elude us.
While the hellish headlines scream ever louder, we desperately need Good News and that is: We do urgently need rescue and we have an all-sufficient rescuer in Christ as...
2. Baby Jesus underscores our neediness.
The fact that God dispatched a lowly infant in a barn as mankind's Savior reveals the extent of our woeful weakness, our need, our dependence. From the onset and ever after, we can rely on Christ as the source of love, strength, wisdom, and eternal safety. Apart from him, we are of-so much weaker than we know. In Christ, are adopted children of God with all the benefits of unrestricted access (1.) because...
3. Baby Jesus is both access and accessible.
Through Christ, our unrestricted access to God is restored, available to all. Despite His history-shaping standing, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, an insignificant town, in what many believe was an open-air stable accessible to anyone who cared to stop in. He was not sheltered in a heavily guarded palace accessible only to the privileged, or a temple for the holy, or tucked away in a family's private home. His physical birthplace is a symbolic invitation to the unrestricted access we all have to and through Christ. More importantly...
4. Baby Jesus is the great equalizer.
...there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Despite the unlikely setting, both simple shepherds and global leaders knelt before the baby Jesus, in humble recognition that they were in the presence of greatness. Likewise, the Begotten Son was given to save the entire world from the voluntary and legit consequences of sin--enmity with and eternal separation from God. Jesus wasn't dispatched to save those we deem worthy, the good, the notable, or a particular group of people. He came to save all of us, because we're all a beloved mess!
It's not that the good get better or the bad get good. It's that we all get saved from our just desserts.
In a tragic turn, Christians--with the help of a subtle and sneaky foe--have twisted the truth of The Gospel in such a way that The Good News becomes really lousy news for everyone. This revisionist Gospel suggests that I not only need Christ to be saved from damnation, but then I need to hop on fiery and futile hamster wheel of self-improvement, lest I disappoint my Daddy and get smoted and smoked, or as bad, to earn our Father's acceptance and favor. This view is not only exhausting and agonizing, but it also effectively nullifies Christ's loving sacrifice.
God is not about performance-based love. I've had way more than enough of that. No thank you!
The Gospel is that God loved us so much, that he gave us a free get-out-of-death-doom-and-gloom gift:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8
Plus, it's not a "them" or "then" proposition, we all need rescue, mercy, and grace on an ongoing basis. This remains our state even after we recognize Christ. No matter how much we think we "clean up," we remain equally needy of Jesus' grace for daily living. What's your question? Jesus is the answer.
While we humans like to plot ourselves on some continuum of goodness or badness, grasping our essential equality would neutralize so many of the divisive internal and external conflicts we're facing, all based largely on arbitrary and self-serving qualifiers. I'm also personally comforted by the knowledge that my repeated failure to grasp the truth is covered, too because...
5. Baby Jesus demonstrates that God's solutions are often unexpected and counterintuitive.
You cannot make this stuff up! Nobody would invent a rescuer who arrives as a helpless baby, miraculously born to a teen mother and aging dad of modest social standing under apparently sketchy circumstances. Yet that's precisely what God did to solve humanity's considerable problems.
Today, the best minds, the most well-meaning people, are all seeking and proposing a dizzying array of solutions to the problems plaguing us (pun intended). Whether it's managing Covid, advancing justice for racial or other inequities, stimulating the economy, restoring our political system, addressing climate change, resolving global conflicts, or the many other issues we're facing, solutions elude us. These are all God sized problems that call for God sized solutions. We need to acknowledge God and seek his wisdom and intervention to redeem and restore our world.
Back in the day, when circumstances spiraled and enemies loomed, entire nations would turn their attention to God for direction, collectively fasting, praying, examining themselves in God's light, and making responsive course-corrections.
This was (and is) less about figuring stuff out as it is asking God to fix it.
What would happen if we did that? As they say, you can worry or you can pray since...
6. Baby Jesus is the solution to fear.
Warned of Christ's birth by the Magi astrologer-counselors, King Herod was troubled and dispatched them to find Baby Jesus on the false pretense of honoring Him. In reality, Herod would soon order the murder of all Jewish infant boys under age two to eliminate the anticipated baby King. Herod was evidently afraid of the threat to His sovereignty (Matthew 2).
Jesus is a threat to everyone's sovereignty, because He is the ultimate power. I know this is the heart of many of my own fears-- surrendering control. I really, really don't like that. As we struggle with the truth of our need, we can receive God's loving and liberating remedy. Christ.
Proverbs 1:7 states, "Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." Fear is best translated "reverent obedience." I am definitely incapable of the perfect obedience required by a perfect God. Thank God, God graciously provided the ultimate Christmas gift: Jesus Christ. Centuries after this Proverbs wisdom, angels told the scared shepherds...
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
Simply by acknowledging that we need saving and Christ is our Savior, we are restored not only to friendship, but sonship. Through Christ, we're children of God and need never fear again.
Scripture also suggests regular confession to Christ and others to keep our conscience clear, alleviating fear. 1 John 1:19 states "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" while James 5:16 tells us to "confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed."
Ongoing confession relieves the toxic shame, anxiety and depression of secret sin and makes room for Jesus to help us course correct.
Bottom line: If I'm trusting Jesus, I have nothing to fear.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18
This love holds the promise that...
7. Baby Jesus embodies new beginnings.
Nothing says new like a baby. Soft and sweet smelling, fresh everything, miraculous, full of hope and promise. As we wrap up another extraordinarily challenging year, with no sign of the weirdness abating, let's consider Baby Jesus the ultimate hope for new beginnings. That's really good news for a weary world!
In Christ, we are new creations and can enjoy the promise of new beginnings, over and over. God's mercies are new every morning. If we admit our mistakes, Jesus forgives us and purifies us, freeing us to enjoy a brand-new start as needed. I do need that. I want that! The world does, too.
Through Christ, we can look ahead to a new year with new hope.
If we confess our sins, he [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
There is an intentional transaction involved in accessing this certainty: Trading our hopelessness for his hope: Jesus. If you haven't recognized The Baby for who he is, do it now...
Dear Jesus, I don't understand everything about You. I have questions, I have doubts, but I believe you are who you say you are. Please save me from myself, from my sin. Forgive me. I surrender and give my life to You! Thank you and Happy birthday to you and to me.
Dear Jesus, I'm afraid, discouraged, dismayed. I see this reveals that I'm trusting something other than you for love, safety, peace, and joy. Forgive me! Please help me lean my full weight on you and your perfect love and acceptance, earned by your completed work on the cross. I trade my lack for your fullness. Make all things new!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Grace, peace, joy & love in Christ,
Meditate on one of the paintings, vividly imagining yourself in the scene. Journal your feelings, senses, thoughts in detail.
For further study:
2. Romans 3:23
1 John 1:9